The Olympic Games may be a leading international sporting event with representatives from over 200 nations, but contrary to popular belief, they do not usually offer many opportunities for professional translators.
I once attended a very informative talk by the president of the Hellenic Association of Translation Companies who offered invaluable advice for translation companies following the Athens Games, but she also painted a cautionary tale. Equally, a talk I attended prior to the London Olympic Games supposedly outlined opportunities for linguists, but was long on inspirational facts about international relations and the like, but very short on talk of cold, hard business.
Given the large team of volunteers that are generally roped in to help run these events, much language service provision tends to be ad hoc and carried out by non-professionals. (Only 150 people were actually employed in language services for the Sydney Games, for example.) This is great for language students or those with a general interest in language who are motivated by being part of such a historic event, but it’s hardly going to pay the bills for your average jobbing translator.
If I were looking for paid projects in this area in the run-up to a Games, I would target translation agencies who may be supplying services to two kinds of businesses: those in the host country who are bidding to work as contractors or suppliers during the Games, and those based in countries where my source languages are spoken, who might be supplying products or services to their country’s contingencies.
But I suspect I’d eventually decide to just chalk it up as a bit of fun, make the most of the unique multilingual atmosphere and volunteer. Play it right, and it could be a great source of professional development.