Music for the Olympics


Olympic Music

It is difficult to think of an Olympics where music has featured more heavily than at London 2012. The eclectic selection of tracks featuring in Danny Boyle`s opening ceremony included everyone from the Sex Pistols to Mike Oldfield and rapper Dizzee Rascal. With specially commissioned pieces from Underworld, known best for their track “Born Slippy” from Boyle`s 1995 film Trainspotting, the London 2012 Olympics have shown themselves to be about more than simply the sport. But how has this association between music and the Games evolved?

In the beginning

The history of Olympic music really starts with the Olympic Hymn that was composed by Spyridon Samaras with lyrics by poet Kostis Palamas for the opening ceremony of the 1896 Athens Olympic Games. In the following years the hosting countries commissioned specific anthems for their games, however, in 1958 the International Olympic Committee declared the Salamas and Palamas version the official one. As a result it has been used at the Opening Ceremonies at every Games since 1960.

When classical met pop

It was the 1992 Barcelona Olympics where a shift to a more populist approach with mass appeal became evident. The song “Barcelona” by the late Freddie Mercury from Queen and opera singer Montserrat Caballe was played at the start of the 1992 television coverage of the Games. It was originally recorded in 1988 at the La Nit festival in Barcelona which celebrated the arrival of the Olympic Flag from Seoul. Sadly Mercury died in 1991, however, the track scaled new heights following its re-release, reaching number 2 in the UK, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

We will rock you

The relationship between music and the Olympics continues to evolve with the official song of the 2012 Olympics by the English alternative band Muse. The song “Survival” is truly anthemic, featuring the lyrics “Race, life`s a race and I`m gonna win, yes, I`m gonna win”. The track was played at the Opening Ceremony and will be used as the athletes enter the stadium and prior to the medal ceremonies. The accompanying video pays homage to the highs and lows of previous Olympics.

Olympic music has certainly changed over the years. From the early pomp and ceremony of the Olympic Hymn via the camp showmanship of Mercury and Caballe to the anthemic challenge of Muse`s Survival, there has been a gradual democratisation and inclusiveness in its evolution. Those watching the London Opening Ceremony would have found it difficult to resist the urge to tap their feet or dance along to the diverse tracklist. There may be little choice but to get those fender guitars ready and enjoy rocking your way through the 2012 Olympic show.


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