History of Music in the Olympic Games - International Institute for Sport History - A Non-profit, Educational Corporation under 501(c)3, IISOH

International Institute for Sport History
Library and Museum

The IISOH is a Pennsylvania non-profit, educational, literary and research corporation
under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code and is organized to operate a Library and Museum
devoted to the History of Sport, Physical Education, Recreation, Dance, Sport in Art and the Olympic Games.
Donations are tax deductible
Federal Tax ID# 41-2041155

The History of Music in the
Olympic Games


Olympic Themed Films

Album cover of the 1981 33rpm record from CHARIOTS OF FIRE

in the Olympic Games

The modern Olympic Games were organized in 1894 by Baron Pierre de Coubertin of France. The first celebration was held two years later in Athens, Greece. From that very first celebration in 1896 music was part of the ceremony.

When the Athens Games were in preparation the Greek Organizing Committee invited Greek composer Spyridon Samaras to create an anthem for the Games. Greek poet Kostis Palamas created the words that were sung to the musical arrangement. The anthem was first used at the Opening Ceremony of the 1896 Olympic Games. Over the next decades different music was created for Olympic opening ceremonies but in 1958 the IOC decided to officially select the original 1896 Olympic Hymn as a permanent anthem. Since 1960 Rome's summer Olympic Games this anthem has been played at every Opening Ceremonies.

Below are four versions of the original Olympic Hymn from the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games, the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games (no longer on the internet) and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games. Each version is slightly different. In the 1976 version the tempo is the original slower, melodic hymn, first comes the music followed by the chorus without music. At the 2000 Olympic Games the tempo was picked up a bit and at the 1972 Games the tempo was picked up a lot in order to make the hymn more "joyful" and "spirited." The version from 1980 Moscow was the original, slower tempo again, but with the vocals in Russian, however it has disappeared from YouTube. The final version added February 14, 2023 is from the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games and has a faster beat.


Composed by Spyridon Samaras
Vocals by Kostis Palamas

Montreal 1976 Olympics Music - Olympic Hymn, published by Ikarus361 on YouTube July 25, 2012.

Quoting from Ikarus361, "From the 'Games Of The XXI Olympiad, Montréal 1976, Original Soundtrack'. The Olympic Hymn, arranged by Victor Vogel. The Orpheus choir, formed of Canadians of Greek origin or ancestry, afterwards sings the original unaccompanied version of the Olympic Hymn by Spirou Samara and Costis Palamas. This version was reused later in the 1988 Winter Olympics at Calgary."

The Olympic Hymn, published by Human2ism on YouTube, July 27, 2012.
From the Opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

Olympische Hymne 72 Olympic anthem 1972, published by Mariban on YouTube July 18, 2009.
From the Opening ceremony of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.

IISOH NOTE: This video has disappeared from YouTube but we are looking for an archival version.

Olympics hymn in Moscow 1980, published by ? (name in Thailandish) on YouTube February 12, 2017.
From the opening ceremony of the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, using the original tempo with singing in Russian.


Olympic Hymn, posted by Ian Berwick, 91.3K subscribers, 507,956 views, Aug 9, 2015
The Olympic Anthem sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for the 2002 Winter Olympics
in Salt Lake City with great moments from previous Olympic games.

Title page for the Olympic Hymn score, circa 1896.
The IISOH is a Pennsylvania non-profit educational, literary and research corporation
under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code
and is organized to operate a Library & Museum devoted to the
History of Sport, Physical Education Recreation, Dance,
Sport in Art and the Olympic Games.

Federal Tax ID# 41-2041155

Composers Leo Arnaud (Bugler's Dream) and
John Williams (Olympic Fanfare)

In 1984 the summer Olympic Games were hosted in Los Angeles, the only city to bid for those Games. The Olympic Games were in a crisis - a boycott in 1980 of the Moscow Olympic Games by the USA and its allies created a lot of ill-will. A smaller boycott took place in 1984 when the Soviet Union and its allies did not participate. In this atmosphere John Williams created music for the Opening Ceremonies that has lasted decades, becoming a symbol of the music of the modern Olympic Games. But there is also a bit of confusion because there are two musical scores that are widely recognized and only one was written by John Williams.

In 1964, twenty years prior to John Williams' magnificent score, the French-American composer Leo Arnaud had written Bugler's Dream as part of a larger composition entitled "The Charge Suite" which was written for conductor Felix Slatkin as part of Slatkin's album entitled Charge! Arnaud's composition was then used by ABC and NBC television networks for several Olympic Games presentations and sports shows.

In 1984 John Williams used the "Bugler's Dream" as an introduction to his own composition Olympic Fanfare for the opening ceremonies of the Los Angeles Olympic Games. The arrangement has been famous ever since and is widely used in sports and other ceremonies such as graduation celebrations. Below are two arrangements from the 1984 Olympic Games.

As you listen to this first arrangement please note that the first 44 seconds are "Bugler's Dream by Leo Arnaud and at 45 seconds the new arrangement by John Williams (1984) picks up and completes the score. This combination has caused considerable confusion and many references incorrectly give credit only to Williams or fail to identify the compositions correctly. So, this first video is an Arnaud/Williams composition (aka) "Bugler's Dream and Olympic Fanfare."

Bugler's Dream (by Leo Arnaud) and Olympic Fanfare(by John Williams) Medley,
John Williams - Topic, 206K subscribers.
[historical posting information:
80,701 views Apr 8, 2017
Provided to YouTube by Sony Classical
Bugler's Dream and Olympic Fanfare Medley · John Williams · Léo Arnaud · Boston Pops Orchestra
John Williams - Greatest Hits 1969-1999
℗ 1996 Sony Music Entertainment Inc.
Released on: 1999-11-01
Producer: Shawn Murphy
Executive Producer: Laraine Perri
Auto-generated by YouTube.]

Retrieved from YouTube by Harvey Abrams on Tuesday, February 14, 2023
for educational purposes only for the study of music at the Olympic Games.

PLEASE NOTE that this video is a replacement video for the original posting on this page. WHY? Because the internet is NOT forever! The original post on YouTube has been taken down... which is why the internet is not nearly as good as a library for research... the library - our library - collects, saves and preserves such material for future generations.

The following post has disappeared from YouTube, the web and our page.

Leo Arnaud - Bugler's Dream (Olympic Fanfare), published on YouTube by G1ldenSeppel on March 29, 2011.
The picture is from Athen's Olympic Stadium but no additional information is given about this recording.

Originally linked from this url: https://youtu.be/wZVV_CCfDGU
In this second video notice that "Bugler's Dream" is not used in the beginning.

John Williams | Olympic Fanfare & Theme | Official Music of the 1984 Games, published by Soundtrack Specialist on YouTube on January 13, 2014. [track number 7 of 12] John Williams: Olympic Fanfare And Theme Composed, Conducted by John Williams. Engineered by Dan Wallin. Produced by Jack Elliott. Originally issued on: The Official Music of the 1984 Games [CBS ‎Records 26048] Album Produced by Jon Peters & Peter Guber. Musical Supervision: Michael Dilbeck. http://youtu.be/OCPI1sb02cs


There are numerous films about the Olympic Games from the classic Leni Riefenstahl film of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, OLYMPIA to the French fantasy Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008). But this essay is about the music in film. Two movies stand out above the rest - the Academy Award winner CHARIOTS OF FIRE (1981) and COOL RUNNINGS (1993). In each case the music from these films were popular hits and are reproduced below from YouTube postings.

In 1981 CHARIOTS OF FIRE was a film based upon factual events that took place in 1924 leading up to and including the 1924 Paris Olympic Games. Based upon the experiences of two British athletes, Eric Liddell (actor Ian Charleson above left) and Harold Abrahams (actor Ben Cross above right). The film took a few historical liberties to make the drama more exciting, so it is not entirely an accurate historical drama, but it is a great film, very idealistic and entertaining, with outstanding music by the Greek composer Evángelos Odyssé Papathanassíouas, known professionally as Vangellis. The most famous piece, winning Vangelis an Academy Award for best score, was the theme song from Chariots of Fire:

Chariots of Fire Theme, Vangelis, published by HD Film Tributes on YouTube on June 13, 2013.

[1997] Chariots of Fire - Vangelis (Live in Athens - Greece), published by 1964Byron on YouTube, July 24, 2009. Quoting 1964Byron "In the Panathenean Stadium, Athens 90,000 spectator, ancient all-marble stadium, Vangelis performs his creation Chariots of Fire from the Oscar winning movie soundtrack. The performance was part of the Opening Ceremony of the 6th IAAF World Championships in Athletics in 1997 in Athens. The concept of the ceremony, the direction, the artistic and musical supervision was solely by Vangelis Papathanasiou."

Cool Runnings (1993)

The 1993 film COOL RUNNINGS was another fact-based Olympic film that took many historical liberties to make a great movie. The basic story is about Jamaican athletes who try to make it to the winter Olympic Games as a bobsled team even though they come from a country that has never seen snow. The music was composed by the esteemed Hans Zimmer.

Hans Zimmer - The Walk Home from Cool Runnings, published by Boscorelli on YouTube August 9, 2010.

Hans Zimmer - The Heroes anthem from Cool runnings, published by Boscorelli on YouTube on September 11, 2010.

Jimmy Cliff - I Can See Clearly Now, JimmyCliffVEVO, Published on YouTube on May 3, 2014.

Mr. Harvey Abrams, President
IISOH Library & Museum

PO Box 732
State College, PA., USA 16804

Office in Vienna, Austria coming in 2023

A non-profit educational, literary & research corporation
Federal Tax ID# 41-2041155


There are many sources of information on this topic but
here are just a few of the better web sources to visit:

Sources for the History of Olympic Music:
  • https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/who-really-composed-nbc-olympic-theme-not-who-you-think-180949574/

  • https://www.cleveland.com/pdq/index.ssf/2012/08/bill_guegold_ten_minutes_with.html

  • William K. Guegold. 100 Years of Olympic Music: Music and Musicians of the Modern Olympic Games 1896-1996. Golden Clef Pub., np., 1996.

  • https://stillmed.olympic.org/media/Document%20Library/OlympicOrg/Olympic-Studies-Centre/List-of-Resources/Resources-available/Archives/EN-The-Olympic-Anthem-and-music.pdf

  • https://www.npr.org/sections/deceptivecadence/2012/07/26/157235593/a-know-it-alls-guide-to-olympic-music

  • https://www.mmb.org.gr/page/default.asp?id=2194&la=2
    This is a very comprehensive history of the musical arrangements that were part of the 1896 Olympic Games from Greek sources. Some of the linked pages do not work but the text is extrememly useful for the study of this subject.

  • https://www.mmb.org.gr/files/mp3/samara_paidia.mp3

  • https://www.mmb.org.gr/page/default.asp?id=2158&la=1

  • We are the Champions: The Politics of Sports and Popular Music By Ken McLeod © 2011 Routledge

  • https://www.wqxr.org/story/9-classical-music-works-inextricably-linked-olympics/

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCqUESCoB1w

  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olympic_Hymn

The IISOH is a Pennsylvania Non-profit
Educational, Literary and Research corporation
under section 501(c)3 of the Internal Revenue Code

Donations are tax deductible
Federal Tax ID# 41-2041155


Links to a few other IISOH pages:

This page was created January 19, 2018
Updated February 14, 2023