Olympic Games: from tourism and politics through to languages and translation
10th March 2016
The contribution and history of the modern Olympic Games:
from tourism and politics through to languages and translation
The 4th-12th March was English Tourism Week, a celebration of events showcasing the quality and vibrancy of the English tourism industry.
Bringing together visitors, residents, communities, businesses and employees alike, the English tourism sector is one of the few sectors active in every part of the country. It is the nation’s third largest employer, supporting 2.6 million jobs and contributing £106bn a year to the economy.
Sports events have always played a huge part in boosting our tourism industry. In recent years, the UK has hosted some of the biggest international sporting events, not least Le Grand Départ 2014 (Tour de France 2014) and the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games, and more recently the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
The massive contribution of the Olympic Games to the tourism industry
The Olympic Games are considered to be the world’s foremost sports competition with more than 200 nations participating. And for host countries, the economic contribution of the Olympic Games can be huge.
For the London 2012 Summer Olympic Games, an estimated 590,000 overseas residents visited the UK and attended Olympics events. According to the Office for National Statistics, the average amount of money spent by Olympics visitors was £1,290 per person, almost twice as much as the average £650 spent by other visitors. The majority of visits for the Games were made by European residents, with an equal share coming from North America and other countries around the world.
To maximise these opportunities and provide the best visitor experience to international guests, years of forward planning goes into these events. This includes specialist sports translation and sports interpreting, which ensures everyone can communicate, enjoy and make the most out of their visit, no matter where they are from or what languages they speak.
The origins of the Olympics Games movement
The origins of the Olympic Games movement can be traced back almost 2,700 years. According to historical records, the first ancient Olympic Games took place in 776 BC on the plains of Olympia in Greece.
Lasting up to five days, the ancient Olympic Games were dedicated to the Olympian gods and celebrated exceptional physical accomplishments as well as encouraging good relations between Greek cities. The Olympia site was chosen as it was overlooked by the statue of Zeus (mythological king of the gods), one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
The ancient Olympic Games continued for almost 12 centuries, until Emperor Theodosius decreed in 393AD that all such “pagan cults” be banned.
Establishing the modern Olympic Games
It wasn’t until the 19th century that the Olympic Games were rekindled and the modern Olympic Games movement was born. Returning to its home in Greece, the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens in 1896, with 14 participating nations including Australia, Austria, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.
The following 1904 Games, held in St. Louis, were poorly organised, with participation of only 12 nations, and many events contested only by athletes from the host United States.
But in 1906, Greece took the reins again and hosted the ‘Intercalated Games’ in Athens. An international multi-sport event, these Games were at the time considered to be Olympic Games and were referred to as the “Second International Olympic Games in Athens” by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Although the IOC no longer considers this event an official ‘Games of the Olympiad’, it helped to restore the modern Olympic movement. Participation at subsequent Games then grew steadily, with 22 nations competing in London 1908, and 28 nations competing in Stockholm 1912.
Britain’s role in the Olympics
Britain is one of only five countries that have been represented at all the summer Olympic Games. We have hosted the Games on three separate occasions, and have played a pivotal role in their development.
A short summary of Britain’s role in the Olympic Games:
- Athens 1896 – In 1896, Great Britain competed in the first modern Olympic Games as part of the ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland’.
- London 1908 – These Games established the start of the current four-year cycle for the Summer Olympics.
- London 1948 – This event marked the return of the Games after a 12-year hiatus due to the Second World War. In the same year, the British village of Stoke Mandeville first hosted the Stoke Mandeville Games, an athletics event for disabled British veterans of the Second World War, held to coincide with the opening of the Summer Olympics in London – and the start of the Paralympics movement.
- London 2012 – The most recent Olympic Games took place in London with a record-breaking 206 participating nations. These Games will also be remembered for their contribution to the Paralympics Games movement. It was the largest Paralympics ever. 4,302 athletes from 164 National Paralympic Committees participated, and 14 countries appeared in the Paralympics for the first time ever, prompting International Paralympic Committee president Philip Craven to declare them the “greatest Paralympic Games ever”.
Throughout its incredible 119-year history, the modern Olympic Games has not been immune from controversy and political disruption. From world wars through to political boycotts, the smooth running of the Games has often been influenced by external events, as the summary list below shows.
Political events that have influenced the Olympic Games
- 1920 Antwerp Games – Austria, Bulgaria, Hungary and Turkey were not invited to these Games due to their role in the First World War. At the same time, new European states Czechslovakia and Yugoslavia made their Olympic debut.
- 1924 Paris Summer Olympics – While other countries returned, Germany was still not invited back to these Games. (German participants returned for the 1928 Games in Amsterdam.)
- 1932 Los Angeles Games – The Great Depression meant that only 37 nations competed in the Los Angeles Games, less than half the participants of the previous Games.
- 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics – These Games were attended by 49 nations (a new high), but following the rise of Hitler and the exclusion of Jewish participants, the event was highly politicised. Hitler saw these Games as an opportunity to promote his Nazi agenda and tried to prevent Jewish athletes from participating (he was overruled).
- 1940 Tokyo and 1944 London – Both of these Games were cancelled due to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939.
- 1948 London Summer Olympics – Germany and Japan were not invited to take part in these Games due to their roles in the war. (Both were invited back to take part in the 1952 Games in Helsinki.
- 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympics – These Games were boycotted by Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon due to the Suez Crisis. Additionally, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland withdrew following the Soviet invasion of Hungary.
- 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics – The Ivory Coast and Senegal boycotted these Games because of New Zealand’s participation, as New Zealand maintained other sporting relations with apartheid South Africa.
- 1980 Moscow – These Games saw the largest ever Olympic boycott. The United States led the boycott in protest of the December 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and was joined by more than 60 other nations.
- 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympics – In response to the Moscow Games boycott, the Los Angeles Games were then boycotted by the Soviet Union and many of their allies.
It is clear that the Olympic Games has had a diverse and sometimes divisive history. Yet the ethos of the modern Olympic Games remains around contributing to and building a peaceful and better world, by educating young people globally through sports and the Olympic spirit.
As the world’s largest sporting event, one of the Games’ biggest successes is its ability to bring people together from all around the world to compete and enjoy the Games no matter what language they speak. The Games is supported by a huge team of sports translators and interpreters who enable communication across international boundaries.
Vital role of sports translation at the Olympic Games
Sports translation and sports interpreters play a vital role in ensuring major sports events are accessible to audiences all over the world, including the Olympic Games.
For the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, more than 60 professional conference interpreters, some 70 consecutive interpreters and hundreds of volunteer language assistants made up the interpreting team, covering 27 languages. (Manuel PASTOR, 2000 “The spirit of the games”)
Over 10,000 language experts were needed at the Beijing Games. As one expert has said, “Translators and interpreters [at the Beijing Games] will need more than just knowledge of a couple of languages. They’ll also need to be able to speak the language of sport.” (China Daily, 20017) Yet a survey by the Science & Technology Translators’ Association showed that linguists with good sports knowledge are in short supply, with less than 1.3 percent of the 15,000 professional translators and interpreters interviewed showing competence in sports work.
Even within the same language spoken in different regions or countries, there can be misunderstanding, as this BBC article ‘Sporting terms lost in translation’ shows in its exploration of the differences between UK and US sports terms, and the misunderstandings than can arise when the wrong terms are used!
Sports translation and sports interpreting services
Andiamo! helps marketing and sales professionals in all areas of the sports industry by translating campaigns and other promotional material to attract and inform new visitors. We have translated several visitor guides for the Tour de Yorkshire and Tour de France from English into French, German and Dutch.
Andiamo! currently translates for sports and tourism clients such as Manchester City Football Club, Arsenal Football Club, Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum and Welcome to Yorkshire.