Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Olympic Hymn

The Olympics Games (an international sporting event played every four years) has its own flag and "hymn", used when the Olympic flag is raised, usually during the opening ceremonies.

The Olympic Hymn first appeared at the first Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, Greece. The lyrics were written in Greek by Greece's national poet, Costis Palamas and set to music by Spirou Samara for the 1896 Games. The hymn was unofficial until 1958, when the International Olympic Committee formally adopted it. (From 1896 to the 1960 Games, each country would commission local composers to compose an Olympic hymn for that particular Games. The 1960 Games was the first that the Olympic Hymn was played for since the first games.) Usually every nation that hosts the Games performs the Olympic Hymn in their own language, the original Greek lyrics, and a translation into English, is presented for reference.

National anthems play a big part in the Olympic Games. Starting with the 1924 Games, the winner's national anthem for each event is played as their flag is hoisted in celebration. Also, according to Olympic rules, national anthems cannot be longer than 80 seconds in length, causing some countries to create a shortened version of their anthem to be played at the Games in the event that their participant wins. (Ironically, the full version of the Olympic Hymn is several minutes long!) Also, a nation may choose to have another anthem played instead of their national one if they so choose; for example, at the 1992 Games, the former Soviet republics united under a team known as the "Unified Team", whenever a member of this team won their event, they chose the song "Ode to Joy" (currently used as the European anthem) to be played. During the 1980 Games in Moscow, several non-Communist countries that were participating chose to have the Olympic Hymn played. Also, because of conflicts with China, Taiwan has a special song which they use for such events known as the "Flag Raising Song".