VANOC defends lack of French

By BOB MACKIN, QMI Agency

VANCOUVER -- Organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics defended the lack of French culture in the Games’ opening ceremony Sunday after high-profile criticism.

Both Quebec Premier Jean Charest and Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore felt there should have been more of Canada’s other official language in the Friday pageant.

“We take any concerns by anyone seriously, in this case it’s one of our government partners, we listen and will adapt if necessary,” said VANOC vice-president of communications Renee Smith-Valade.

She said there were various Francophones on the production team, three of the eight flag carriers were Francophones -- Sen. Romeo Dallaire, astronaut Julie Payette and race car driver Jacques Villeneuve -- and Quebec singer Garou performed just before the entry of the Olympic flame.

Celine Dion, Canada’s biggest musical export, was “thrilled to be asked” but was disappointed not to be able to perform, Smith-Valade said. Dion was in New York last week for fertility treatments.

The ceremony was dedicated to Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili, who died in a training crash on Friday morning. Athletes at the Whistler Olympic Village have created a memorial and are signing books of condolences for his family. Smith-Valade said VANOC hopes to expedite the shipment of his remains to Georgia.

“We are exploring with Vancouver Airport whether it would be appropriate to have a ceremony on the departure of his remains,” she said.

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