Britain’s cycling fans may have an advantage over followers of many other sports when London hosts the 2012 Olympics, after the revelation that the official language of the Games will be not English, but French.
Whether it’s watching the rouleurs and puncheurs in the peloton battle it out - hopefully avoiding chutes and the dreaded voiture balai – on their way to the arrivée of the road race, or the pistards seeking to add to their palmarès in the vélodrome, the lexicon of cycling owes much to the French language.
Granted, to the uninitiated Anglophone, the phrases can sometimes sound like something spoken by Crabtree, the gendarme from ‘Allo ‘Allo!, but those of us who spend three weeks glued to the TV each summer watching the Tour de France, there could be a reassuring familiarity to some of the proceedings come London 2012.
According to The Daily Telegraph, documents obtained by the Spectator magazine and the Games Monitor website under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that French will take precedence over English at all ceremonies, including the presentation of medals, related to the Games – which London of course beat Paris to secure.
The 2012 Olympics may be the biggest sporting event to hit town since England won the World Cup at Wembley in 1966, but the move evokes thoughts more of 1066, the year of the Norman Conquest which paved the way for several hundred years of French taking primacy in England at court and in the law.
Making French an official language – however temporarily – in part of Great Britain for the first time since the Middle Ages isn’t the only controversial measure contained within the Olympic Technical Manual produced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), according to the Telegraph.
In line with IOC requirements, an Act of Parliament has been passed making guerrilla marketing an offence, and London authorities are also required to “obtain control of all billboard advertising, city transport advertising, airport advertising etc for the duration of the games and the month preceding.” The rules also mean that Barclays Cycle Hire bikes will not be allowed in the Olympic Park.
LOCOG, the organiser of the London Olympics, is also required to provide at least 700 cars plus chauffeurs to people nominated by the IOC, as well as paying for at least 7,000 of the 40,000 hotel rooms that will need to be booked for the Olympic circus.
Despite its insistence on French as the offical language of London 2012, however, the IOC will be hoping that whatever the sport, competitors resist the temptation to take diner chez Virenque – the term has entered French cycling slang as a euphemism for seeking to artificially boost performance – le dopage, in other words.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.