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The Winter Olympics in Sochi have received a great deal of attention from the media. Language hasn’t dominated the discussion, but the Organizing Committee has placed a massive amount of emphasis on language services and has made Olympic history by offering international representatives, athletes, tourists, and fans a variety of language services.

language services in Sochi

In past games, like the 2012 Olympic games in London, language mistakes led to anger when Arabic signs and documents were misspelled and misprinted. Similarly, a gymnast from Uzbekistan wasn’t able to answer English reporters’ questions because no interpreter was available. Organizers knew that they wanted to come up with a better solution for the Sochi Games.

For the first time in Olympic history, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched the “Sochi 2014: Translating the Games” forum to organize linguistic support for upcoming Olympic events. The forum lasted two days with over 650 people in attendance including Olympic management, professional linguists, and suppliers of translation services. Let’s look at some interesting results of the forum:

–       Translation and Interpretation

  • There will be over 1,000 translators and interpreters – More than at any previous Olympic site
  • Translators and interpreters needed — Translators and interpreters will be busy with over 5,500 athletes and team members from 80 countries, the majority of whom will require language assistance
  • Olympic officials and others who provide important services to the Olympics have received basic training in the three official languages (English, French, and Russian), with priority placed on English
  • Over 40,000 Russian police officers received basic language instruction in German, in addition to English and French

–       Communications

  • A call center will be available 24/7 throughout the events to provide general information in English, French, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and German.
  • Smart phone apps and a multilingual social media strategy have been developed to offer users several language options, similar to the call center

From spectators in Sochi to viewers around the world, it is clear that the Sochi 2014 Olympics are truly targeting a global audience.

At Translation Excellence, we’re extremely excited the Olympic Planning Committee has decided to expand the language services offered for the Sochi Games. We will eagerly watch and cheer for the U.S. team!

What do you think about the language services offered? Make sure to leave your comment below as the Sochi 2014 Olympic games get started!

4 thoughts on “The Role of Language Services in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

  1. It’s great to see that the T&I industry’s relevance is recognized and I hope other international organizations follow their lead :)

    1. Hello Lissette. It was very encouraging to see the recognition of T&I’s relevance. Yes, hopefully we will see more international organizations follow their lead, and I also hope that mistakes are learned from in the process. Thanks for your comment!

  2. This reminds me of the very experience I had in a para Olympic games we had in Iran for women in 1993 and I was in charge of the interpretation committee. We had 500+ athletes from 15 countries and I had hired 76 interpreters to assist dignitaries and the athletes. It was a great experience but a lot of work. At that time, I had no computers at my disposal and I had only two assistants to work with me, which ended up losing more than 15 pounds during the two weeks of the events and hardly slept 2 hours every night. I had a great experience and despite all the stress and sleeplessness, I won’t regret a minute of it. By the way, I received lots of recognition and awards by the National Olympic Committee which to date nothing has matched them. I think managing the interpretation services for that event was a breakthrough in my professional life and a once in a lifetime experience.

    1. Hello Farah. What an amazing adventure! That sounds very challenging, but, more importantly, sounds like a very rewarding experience. I can only imagine the personal enjoyment, professional development, and marketability that came out of those ’93 Games. Great to hear that you received recognition and awards – What an honor from such a prestigious body. Thank you for your comment and we hope to hear from you more in the future!


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