The Beijing Winter Olympics are just around the corner! They will take place on 4–20 February 2022 and both actual and couch athletes have been eagerly awaiting for the games to begin, especially now with the coronavirus pandemic and the increased amount of time people spend at home. From the Finnish perspective, there is always particular excitement associated with the Winter Olympics because, as a winter sports nation, we have a much better chance of winning medals at the Winter Olympics than at the Summer Olympics.
At the Winter Olympics, athletes will compete in 15 disciplines in seven sports. The total number of events is 109. There will also be completely new events, such as women’s monobob and mixed team competitions in ski jumping, freestyle skiing, snowboard cross and short track speed skating.
The Beijing Winter Olympics have also introduced some new things related to language. Read more below!
Winter Olympics term base
China has built the first browser-based term base (Olympic Winter Games Terminology) in the history of the Winter Olympics, containing as many as 132,000 terms. In addition, the organisers have published the Terms of Olympic Winter Sports dictionary, which contains 3,000 key terms associated with winter sports and the Olympics.
Terms are published in eight languages: Chinese, English, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, German and Spanish. Go and have a look!
Communications with the help of AI
At the Beijing Winter Olympics, language barriers will also be broken with the aid of language technology. In September 2019, it was announced that the Chinese language technology company iFLYTEK was selected to provide automated translation and transcription services for the Winter Olympics.
iFLYTEK specialises in artificial intelligence, speech recognition and natural language processing. In recent years, the company has also launched consumer-oriented machine translation engines. According to the company’s official press release, its aim, in alignment with the Olympic ideals, is to help athletes and guests engage and celebrate the event, without being held back by the communication barriers.
From Chinese characters to pinyin text
At the beginning of the year, the residents of Beijing woke up to a surprise: In official signs, the English words had been replaced by pinyin, i.e. the romanised versions of the Chinese characters. For instance, instead of the English word “station”, the sign had been changed to “Zhan”, which is the romanised version of the Chinese logogram. The English metro station names had also been changed into pinyin: “Olympic Park” now reads “Aolinpike Gongyuan” and terminal 2 of Beijing Airport now reads “2 Hao Hangzhanlou”. Fortunately, the English translations can still be found below in parentheses!
This change in the run-up to the Winter Olympics has generated a lot of discussion in China. People have wondered who the change was made for. The Chinese hardly need pinyin as they generally understand Chinese logograms. On the other hand, foreigners living in China hardly understand pinyin any more than they do Chinese characters. In addition, visitors attending the Olympics probably won’t use the city’s metro due to strict coronavirus restrictions.
Pinyin is the international romanisation system of Chinese names. Its use was approved at the conference of the United Nations Group of Experts on Geographical Names in 1977. In China, the system has been in place since 1958. In 1979, the Finnish Language Board also recommended the use of the pinyin system in Finnish texts.
We wish the best of luck especially to the Finnish team competing at the Beijing Winter Olympics!