Heritage minister 'disappointed' by lack of French


And languages chief describes opening ceremony as 'English with a French song'


Olympic organizers are defending themselves against criticism from Heritage Minister James Moore, who says he was "disappointed" by the amount of French used during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games opening ceremony.

Moore, whose department pitched in $20 million to help pay for the elaborate opening ceremony Friday night, told CBC on Sunday that the spectacle should have been "a better representation of our bicultural past and the reality today."

"They were beautiful, they were spectacular on television, but there should have been more French," said Moore, who represents the Vancouver-area riding of Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam. "I was disappointed there wasn't as much French as we were expecting, as we were told that there was going to be."

Vancouver Olympic organizing committee spokeswoman Renée Smith-Valade defended the ceremony, saying they felt it had made every effort to fully reflect Canada's linguistic duality and its francophone heritage.

She said the group tried to hire a number of Quebec singers who declined to attend, saying they were too busy. One of them was Céline Dion, she said.

But Smith-Valade also acknowledged that the minister's comments stung the organizing committee.

"I think it says that if anything, we need to communicate perhaps more effectively with our government partner about ceremonies and the elements of the ceremonies that highlighted and celebrated French language and culture better than we have," she said.

"There was a very deliberate effort and very focused effort on ensuring there was a very strong representation of French culture and language in the ceremonies. And there will be in the closing as well."

The opening ceremony was watched by a record-setting TV audience in Canada, as 13.3 million viewers viewed the entire 3 1/2-hour event.

Vancouver Organizing Committee chairman John Furlong delivered parts of his speech in broken French, Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean officially declared the Games open in French first, while speed-skating referee Michel Verreault took the officials' Olympic oath in French.

"We've made it clear from beginning to end our expectations that these Games be entirely bilingual, and be respectful of both of Canada's official languages," said Moore, who is also the minister responsible for official languages.

Graham Fraser, the federal commissioner of official languages, echoed Moore's sentiments. "It was not what I expected," he said. "I had the sense of a show that was developed, perceived and presented in English with a French song."

Among the French cultural elements of the opening ceremony was a performance from Garou, a hugely popular singer in Quebec, and a dramatic interpretation of the Chasse-galerie, an old Québécois tale about a group of voyageurs who make a deal with the devil.

- - -

Find up-to-the-minute results, a full schedule of events, photos, videos and more on our Olympics site online at ottawacitizen.com/2010


Story Tools


Related Topics


The Ottawa Citizen Headline News

Sign up to receive daily headline news from The Ottawa Citizen.