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September 9, 2000
France protests English-only policy
Paris turned up the heat on Friday in a dispute over whether French will be spoken at the opening of the Sydney Olympics, saying the independence of the Games was at stake if English were the only language used.
Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Anne Gazeau-Secret said Paris had not officially been notified that Australia's Governor- General Sir William Deane had decided to speak only English at the Games opening on September 15.
"France, along with several other countries, expects French to be present at the official opening of the Sydney Olympics," she said. "Respect for the Olympic Charter guarantees the independence of the Games."
French and English are the two official languages of the International Olympic Committee, but the last three Games -- the Lillehammer and Nogano Winter Games and the Atlanta Summer Games -- have been opened using only the local language.
Gazeau-Secret hinted that Australia had broken a commitment to use French, saying: "By coming forward as a host of the Olympic Games, Australia and its Governor-General have committed themselves to respecting the Charter."
She refused to comment on remarks by Australian broadcaster Mary Kostakidis, who said Australians would "throw up" if they heard the Games being opened in French.
Kostakidis, a newsreader for Australian television, withdrew on Wednesday as host of a major Olympic function at Sydney Opera House because she refused to speak in French before English.
France fiercely defends its language against the growing international use of English. Diplomats said President Jacques Chirac personally asked IOC President Juan Samaranch to try to convince Sir William to speak French at the opening.
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