If you watch the swimming events, just prior to the electronic klaxon (which starts the race) there is a human voice saying something. It's often hard to hear since the television commentators are usually speaking at the same time. But what is being said, and in what language?
It appears to be a two or three word phrase ending in something that sounds like "mark" (e.g. "on your mark"). Can it be that English is the lingua franca for the athletes in Beijing?
Official langauges of the Olympics are english and french, plus the host country. Not sure what they say at the start, but when announcing the athletes it is in the three languages.
The previous note is correct... French and English plus the local language, which in this case is Mandarin.
Perhaps a more democratic solution could be a non-national language like Esperanto!
If you have time please check this solution at http://www.lernu.net
Interestingly CRI have also begun broadcasting in Esperanto.
This is at http://esperanto.cri.cn/
Esperanto is a waste of time. It has no particular redeeming qualities unlike languages built for specific purposes like Lojban.
A lot of sports terms have no equivalent in native languages of various places, and English loanwords are the common forms. This is certainly the case in Japanese baseball. Whoever "brought" the sport to a place often brings their terms for it into the host's language as well.
As a previous comments point out, French and English are the official language of the Olympics and the host country's language is used as well. But the individual events are governed by their international federations, which is FINA for swimming. FINA regulations state that for Olympic and international competitions, the starter says "take your marks" in English. In the fencing bouts I saw, the referee started each bout with "Allez," Frech for "Go."
And I just saw Phelps win the 100m butterflay. Wow. I thought he was out of at 75m.