By Jamie Ducharme
February 26, 2018

Many viewers tuning in to the 2018 Winter Olympics closing ceremony in PyeongChang, South Korea, were likely confused to hear French piping through the stadium loudspeakers.

Why are people speaking French if the closing ceremony is in South Korea? There’s a logical explanation.

Why are they speaking French at the Olympics closing ceremony?

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) charter decrees that the organization’s official languages are French and English. Given the dual official languages, it’s customary for announcements at official Olympic events to be made in French, English and the language of the host country. In this case, of course, that’s Korean.

Why is French one of the IOC’s official languages?

A Frenchman named Pierre de Coubertin organized the first Olympic Games of the modern era, which were held in Athens in 1896, according to the IOC. Coubertin’s French heritage cemented the romance language in the IOC’s culture, where it still remains today. In fact, the IOC charter even says that, “In the case of divergence between the French and English texts of the Olympic Charter and any other IOC document, the French text shall prevail unless expressly provided otherwise in writing.”

How did France perform at the PyeongChang Olympics?

France lived up to its storied Olympic history by taking home 15 medals: five gold, four silver and six bronze.

Write to Jamie Ducharme at jamie.ducharme@time.com.

SPONSORED FINANCIAL CONTENT

Read More From TIME

EDIT POST