Bienvenue a Whistler 

Whistler to welcome visitors in two official languages, and provide assistance in several others

click to enlarge Jim Godfrey
  • Jim Godfrey

Whistler will join the Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) in presenting both French and English at venues during the 2010 Games, as well as by working to ensure that athletes, officials, members of the Olympic family and visitors will be able to get assistance in a variety of other languages.

Last week VANOC announced the creation of an advisory panel on official languages to ensure that both languages and cultures are represented at official Games venues, in terms of signage, announcers, documentation and other information is available.

"The Games offer us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase Canada's rich cultural diversity and linguistic duality, and to welcome the world in English and French," said Jacques Gauthier, a member of VANOC's board of directors. "In following Mr. (Graham) Fraser's recommendations (as Canada's Commissioner of Official Languages), we are pleased to create this committee to advise and oversee how well we're progressing on these important goal's."

But while Fraser's recommendations apply to official Olympic events and venues, the Resort Municipality of Whistler will apply them to the village and areas "outside the fences," like the planned Live Sites in the village.

"Our own celebration sites will include elements of both English and French, which will probably be accomplished in a number of ways," explained Jim Godfrey, executive director for the 2010 Winter Games in Whistler.

"For example, we'll try to use bilingual emcees when possible, and some of the performances will be in French. We have performers playing from across the country that will be bilingual or French speaking, and when we do the final website for our celebration sites it will be in French as well."

Having bilingual signage at Live Sites and other Whistler venues is a requirement for accepting funding from Canadian Heritage, but Godfrey says that Whistler would have embraced bilingualism from the start.

"That is one of the things that has been an aspect of these Games for some time now. The current and former mayor were both bilingual and could speak French," said Godfrey. "Ken (Melamed) has been exceptionally good when conducting interviews with the French media, and typically includes a bilingual component when making presentations or meeting dignitaries, which is something that's been recognized by partners and sponsors whenever they're present."

Both Whistler and VANOC are also working to ensure that translators are in place for organizations and visitors that may not speak English or French.

According to VANOC spokesman Sébastien Théberge, most of the recruiting is being done at the workforce level, hiring volunteers and staff to work at the Games. He estimates that the Games will need employees and volunteers that can speak up to 40 languages.

In Whistler the RMOW and Tourism Whistler will be polling their staff in the near future to see what additional languages they might speak, and will put together an inventory of when and where staff are working so they can be of assistance.

As well, Tourism Whistler will be helping to run the media welcome centre, with assistance from Tourism B.C. and the Canadian Tourism Commission. They will have staff working that can speak English, French, German, and potentially Italian and Japanese.

Throughout Whistler, the information kiosks will be recruiting volunteers "that are bilingual in French, and otherwise," said Godfrey.

In emergencies, Godfrey anticipates that there will be a list of contacts that speak a wide variety of languages that can be contacted around the clock for assistance.

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