Today marks the start of the 2016 Olympics and the opening ceremony will kick things off at midnight UK time. Before the closing ceremony on 21 August, Brazil will have been host to 306 sporting events for 28 different sports with an expected 10,500 athletes.
Here are a few language facts about Rio 2016:
These are the first Olympic games to be held in a Portuguese-speaking country and the first to be held in Latin America since the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.
There are 207 nations competing in this year’s Olympics from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe – that’s a lot of languages!
The Olympics generally has 3 official languages; English, French and the language of the host country. The first two (English and French) are determined by the number of eligible countries which speak the language rather than the total number of speakers worldwide, which explains how French and English are chosen over Chinese, for example. For Rio 2016, French was declared the Official Language of the Games in honour of the victims of the Paris attacks.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll have noticed that I love to look at the stories behind the words so I’ve taken a look at a couple of the sports that you can see at this year’s Olympics as well as their translations in Portuguese and French:
Developed in England and Scotland in the 19th century, Water polo started life as a kind of “water rugby”. The word polo is derived from the Balti word pulu for ball, and is also used for the horseback game Polo although there are many dissimilarities between the two sports (starting with the fact that one involves a horse and one, well, doesn’t). In terms of translation, French uses the English term in its entirety with le water-polo while Portuguese goes a step further into translation, while retaining the reference to polo with o polo aquático.
Shot put has its roots in Ancient Greece and shot put events similar to the modern day sport can be traced back to the Middle Ages. There’s no surprise meaning behind the name, which refers to putting (throwing with a pushing action) the shot (a heavy spherical object) as far as possible! The French and Portuguese terms are similarly self-explanatory with lancer du poids and arremesso de peso, respectively.
Fencing can be traced back to the 12th century and while it has significant Spanish and Italian influences, by the 18th century the French school of fencing had become the standard for the sport in Western Europe. The word fencing itself is derived from defense, which itself comes from the Old French defens and many of the terms used for the sport are in French too, like épée (one of the fencing weapons), manchette (a glove cover worn by sabre fencers) and, of course, en garde! In French, the sport is called escrime, which comes from the Late Latin word schermare and Italian scherma (fencing), which both have similarities to the medieval German skremen, meaning the art of defending oneself. These influences are also reflected in the Portuguese term esgrima.
Enough with the language – GO TEAM GB!