The London 2012 Olympic Games got underway in spectacular fashion at the weekend, and the many languages and cultures on show have been a key topic of discussion.

27 million people in the UK alone watched the opening ceremony, which was orchestrated by English film director and producer Danny Boyle, with millions more viewers tuning in around the world to watch and listen to broadcasts in many different languages.

A record 1.7 million watched the ceremony on the BBC’s online catch-up service iPlayer, whilst the BBC Sport website had its busiest ever day on Sunday, with a reported eight million unique visitors from around the world getting the latest on the Olympics coverage.

The world’s largest sporting event has gripped much of the planet already, with feverish discussions occurring across social media networks, blogs, forums, and homes worldwide.

One of the major topics of debate on Friday night revolved around the Olympic Stadium announcements, especially when introducing the 204 competing nations. Many were confused as to why those announcements were made in only two languages, French and English, with many questioning why the French language came before English language.

The reasons behind these two languages being used, and the order for them, is fairly simple. French is the official language of the modern Olympics and the Olympics movement language, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) was initally founded by Baron Pierre de Coubertin, a Frenchman, in 1894.

The very first modern Olympics event took place two years later, whilst the Olympic Charter, which specified that French would be the prominent language, was produced in 1908.

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Tradition is a major element, and for over a century now the Olympic Games has used two official languages, French and English. Depending on where in the world the event is taking place, the official language of the host nation is also commonly used as a third language. The French language has always been the Olympics’ first tongue though.

It seems reasonable that as the individual most instrumental in bringing about the very first modern Games, Coubertin was perfectly obliged to ensure that his language was the primary one used. The IOC’s initial meeting actually took place in the French capital, Paris. Nowadays, the governing body of the modern Olympic Games is based in Lausanne, Switzerland, where the French language is spoken extensively.

With 204 participating nations, the languages of competing athletes, officials and supporters will continue to be discussed as the Games continues over the next fortnight.

What did you make of the opening ceremony, and have you enjoyed watching the various events on show so far? Let us know via the comment box below.

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