Zut alors! Quebec says Games commits language faux-pas

Tue Feb 16, 2010 1:55am EST
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By Karolos Grohmann

VANCOUVER (Reuters) - The opening ceremony for the Vancouver Olympics did not promote nearly enough French-Canadian culture, the premier of the mainly French-speaking province of Quebec said on Monday.

The issue has caused quite a stir in bilingual Canada, with many Quebec residents complaining the French language was all but absent from the three-hour opening spectacle for the February 12-28 Games in English-speaking Vancouver.

"On the French language issue it just was not enough," Quebec Premier Jean Charest said at a press conference while sitting next to Games chief John Furlong. "It certainly was not at the level we had been expecting."

Quebec media have run several headlines on the issues since the opening ceremony, including one in Monday's La Presse which read "French as rare as snow in Vancouver," a reference to the lack of white stuff where some competitions are being held.

Furlong said several parts of the "complex" opening ceremony were in French, including a performance by Quebec singer Garou right before the much-anticipated arrival of the Olympic torch.

Other French Canadian elements during the Opening ceremony included Canada's Governor General, who declared the Games open in French and then in English. Also, three of the eight Olympic flag carriers were Francophones.

Quebec, however, did have one reason to smile with local boy Alexandre Bilodeau becoming the first Canadian to win an Olympic gold medal on home soil when he won the men's freestyle moguls event on Sunday.

Vancouver became the third Canadian city to host the Olympics after Montreal in 1976 and Calgary in 1988.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

<p>A snowboarder flies through the olympic rings at the start of the opening ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, February 12, 2010. REUTERS/David Gray</p>