Greatest Theme Songs from International Sporting Events

The 2016 Olympics in Rio will hold from the 5th to the 21st of August. I am very much a fan of big sporting events, even when I don’t watch them! I vaguely remember the 1984 Olympics as a memory of a memory; I am also a HUGE fan of music. Therefore, the highlight of any Olympics for me is (or was) the theme music. I want to share some of my favourite theme songs with you.  Let me know what you think. Do you agree with me? Have I left any out?

Barcelona Freddie Mercury & Monserrat Caballé – Barcelona (1987, used in 1992): This is obviously one of my favourites. What is not to like about rock and opera? Barcelona for me was the perfect Olympics. (It was in a good time zone too!) This song is especialy poignant as it was recorded way ahead of time due to Freddie Mercury’s ill health. Just the repetition of ‘Viva’ and ‘Barcelona’ still makes my hair stand on end! Rock and Opera! What more do we want? I like the melody, though I feel it is a bit of an acquired taste. It is not very singable, especially Caballe’s parts. I think this is everything an theme song should be.

Koreana – Hand in Hand (1988) Seoul: This is the first one I can really remember, so it holds a very special place for me. NTA Ilorin played it so much, I was afraid the singers were going to get sore (chuckle!). There is just something about this one that captures the hope that characterised the 80s, the hope for world peace and cooperation that seems so elusive now. That is why listening to this still makes me cry! Lyrics are Simple yet Superb I think. ‘Breaking down the walls that come between us for all time!’ Not too many lines are harmonised, but when they are, they are good. Easy to listen to. Hand in hand was in my head for most of the 90s. It has not a grand, but a sweet majesty.#

Il Divo & Toni Braxton – Time of our Lives (2006): I actually did not hear this till 2007, because I took a break from watching sports. This song was one of the things that drew me back in. Il Divo has always been a favourite of mine, even though ‘popera’ may sometimes be classified as something less valued. This song manages to capture the feeling within sports fans that keeps them coming back for more. ‘We’ll find the glory in the air– for the time of our lives…’ This song has such beautiful harmonies, but what else would you expect from 3 classically trained singers and two pop stars! You would probably not be humming this to yourself often, but you may be tempted to belt it out in the shower. The crescendo into the verse lends so much majesty to here.

Celine Dion – Power of the Dream (1996): This was a very good Olympics for me. The perfect combination of functioning NEPA, time zone and satellite television ensured that I did not miss a second of these games. Sang by Celine Dion, this was the perfect song for the 90s. Perfect lyrics with all the olympiad buzzwords ‘Dream’, ‘Faith’, ‘Inspiration’ etc. Very little on harmonies, but does not detract from the beauty of the song. Very singable, I imagine talent shows of the 90s had people singing this A LOT!!! This was another case of sweet majesty, some crescendos, but there was more majesty in the lyrics than in the melody itself.

Gloria Estefan – Reach (1996): Sung at the Closing ceremony at Atlanta. This song felt like the end of the era. It is a very  Olympic song, featuring the ‘higher, stronger’ from the Olympic motto. The Atlanta Olympics was epic for the world and for Nigeria, so this song captured that epicness. Simple yet so very meaningful lyrics, ‘Just for one moment touch the sky.’ Not many harmonies, but still a solid song. It has a cool relaxing melody. I don’t think the song was meant to be majestic, but more inclined to evoke a sense of nostalgia.

Shakira – Waka Waka (This time for Africa) [2010]: For the first World Cup to be held in Africa, we needed an African song. I like this song because it captures that ‘Coke advert’ feeling of football. I do feel that the theme song should have been sung by an African— but you cannot have everything right? Not much going on with the lyrics…’This time for Africa’. Not much in the harmonies  as well. But the melody is very nice, very zumbarish! I really like the song, but it is limited in its versatility. Though I suspect I am more likely to prefer  older songs.

Whitney Houston – One Moment in Time (1988) Another anthem from Seoul. I really believe that the 80s had the best music! I love the lyrics — ‘Give me one moment in time, When I’m racing with destiny.’ It was song by Whitney Houston so Melody and Majesty are already in the Harmonies. Though truthfully, all you do when listening to this is focus on Whitney’s powerful voice. RIP!!!

Sarah Brightman & Jose Carreras – Amigos Para Siempre (1992): Most of the song is in English, but the Title line is in Spanish. It highlights the spirit of the Olympics which is world peace. If we play together, we are friends, we do not go to war against each other. Brightman and Carreras carry this song very well. Two classic singers in a classic song.They do the song credit.

There is one last song which is not a theme from an event, but from a sporting film. I think it is one of the best of all time. That is Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire for the 1981 film of the same name. It was the official theme for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo,and it was played prior to the start of the men’s 100m race final at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. It has no lyrics, but its majesty resonates with me very deeply. So that is my final pick.

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