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Article posted on: July 05, 2016

Although a sporting competition, music has always played an important part at the Olympic Games. As we approach the start of the 2016 Games in Rio, we take a trip down memory lane, to remember some of our favourite Olympic songs from yesteryear!

One Moment in Time – Whitney Houston

The theme song for the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, Korea, this is arguably the biggest hit to come out of the Olympics. Houston’s third UK number one, the song was written by Albert Hammond and John Bettis. Whitney Houston performed the song at the opening ceremony and talks about believing in yourself against all odds: ‘I want one moment in time/When I’m more than I thought I could be/When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away/And the answers are all up to me’. 

Barcelona – Freddie Mercury & Monserrat Caballé

Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, was a big opera fan and loved Monserrat Caballé. Eventually, the two ended up working together on a musical project for the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Caballé’s native city. They actually produced an entire album, but this was the track chosen as the Games’ theme. Sadly, Mercury died in 1991, eight months before the Games and so the song was played over a travelogue of the city, rather than performed live by the artists. 

The Power of the Dream – Celine Dion

Canadian superstar Celine Dion performed ‘The Power of the Dream’ at the opening ceremony of the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Written and produced by legendary Canadian music producer David Foster, his then-wife Linda Thompson and Babyface, the song is another anthem about believing in yourself: ‘Deep within each heart/There lies a magic spark/That lights the fire of our imagination/And since the dawn of man/The strength of just “I can”/Has brought together people of all nations’.

Bang the Drum – Bryan Adams & Nelly Furtado

You’d be forgiven for not knowing this one, it wasn’t an international hit. But the theme song for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada, was sung at the opening ceremony by two huge Canadian stars – Bryan Adams and Nelly Furtado. Both artists were residents of Vancouver and the song was dedicated to the athletes who had come to their city. Admittedly a bit cheesy, the song focuses on taking part: ‘Each of us trying our best/Chasing a dream/Burning to follow the flame’.

Survival – Muse

British rock band Muse provided the official song for the London 2012 Olympics. Matt Bellamy, the band’s lead singer, explained that the song ‘expresses a sense of conviction and a determination to win.’ The song was not performed at the opening ceremony of the Games, but did feature as part of Muse’s set at the closing ceremony. It was also played before medal ceremonies, and provided the backing for the athletes’ entrance in to the stadium at the opening ceremony. 

Olympic Hymn

Of course, we couldn’t take a look at the music of the Olympic Games without including the famous Olympic Hymn. The Olympic Hymn, a choral cantata, was performed at the opening ceremony of the very first modern Olympic Games in 1896, but wasn’t declared the official Olympic anthem until 1958. Since then, it’s been performed at every opening and closing ceremony since 1960. Rather appropriately, both the composer and lyricist were Greek and the original song is in the Greek language (although host countries are permitted to perform the song in other languages, or as an instrumental if they prefer). 

Have we mentioned your favourite? What are the best and worst Olympic theme songs? We’d love to hear your thoughts, just tweet us @HalsburyTravel

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