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Top 10 Olympic Songs

Ahead of Rio, bask in the glory of some of these tunes

Top 10 Olympic Songs
02 August 2016

The biggest sporting spectacle on earth deserves an an uplifting, inspirational anthem to match. Unfortunately we don't always get what we deserve.

But nonetheless, over the years, there have been a variety of efforts to provide an appropriate soundtrack to athletes aiming for their very best, wearing their vests, as they reach for the sky, and soar so high.

You can check out the official song for the 2016 Rio games - Alma e Coração’ (Soul and Heart), performed by samba star Thiaquinho and rapper Projota - here.

But it doesn't make it into our definitive list of the top 10 Olympic songs ever - read on and prepare for some truly inspirational stuff.

Freddie Mercury & Monserrat Caballé - Barcelona (1987, used in 1992)

Where else can one begin but the very best Olympic song of all time? Mercury had been a fan of opera since incorporating elements of it into Bohemian Rhapsody and when Caballé was asked to assist in recording an anthem for the 1992 Barcelona games, she approached Mercury, who jumped at the chance to work with her. Part of a whole album they recorded together, this is an epic coming-together of the worlds of opera, rock and pop: a massive tune and a memorable video too - which opens with a conductor using what looks like a lightsaber. Amazing.

Whitney Houston - One Moment in Time (1988)

This utter anthem was written for the 1988 Seoul Olympics by John Bettis and Albert Hammond - father of Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. An enormous hit, the song reached the top spot in the UK, US and Germany and became one of Whitney's best-loved songs. Just when you think it can't get any bigger, she brings out the old slow-down-into-a-key-change-trick at 4:06. Magnificent.

Sarah Brightman & Jose Carreras - Amigos Para Siempre (1992)

Another song written for the 1992 Barcelona games, this latin-flavoured track (the title translates as 'Friends for Life') was written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by the legendary Don Black. Fact: the track was so beloved of former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch that it was played at his funeral at 2010.

Koreana - Hand in Hand (1988)

We have no idea how this song ever came to exist, but thankfully it happened. For some reason, hosts South Korea enlisted the services of italo-disco legend Giorgio Moroder (responsible for creating some of Donna Summer's biggest hits) to produce their anthem, and thus this sounds suitably, epically, brilliantly 80s. Sung in English and Korean with true gusto; this could easily have made it on to a Korean remix of the Rocky soundtrack. The instant it begins, it makes you want to see a montage. Fact: the parent album, also entitled Hand in Hand, sold an astonishing 13 million copies.

Bryan Adams & Nelly Furtado - Bang The Drum (2010)

We'll be honest: we didn't know that this song - performed by two massive international superstars in Adams and Furtado and recorded for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games - even existed. There's a reason for that. Sounding like two completely different songs stapled together, interspersed with some nonsensical clichéd sport lyrics (sample: "aim big, aim high, even believe you can fly") this is very much less than the sum of its parts. Still, they're both Canadian so they're probably really nice.

Celine Dion - Power of the Dream (1996)

Another Canadian powerhouse entry, this was written and produced by David Foster, Linda Thompson and Babyface for the 1996 Atlanta games. In a completely unexpected move for Dion, it was a huge larynx-busting aspirational power ballad. Who on earth saw that one coming?

Muse - Survival (2012)

On paper, Muse were the perfect band to write the soundtrack for the 2012 Olympics, being as they specialise in overblown, triumphant musical spectacle. That is indeed present in this effort with lots of chanting and big drums, but the rather lame lyrics ("I'll light the fuse and I'll never lose" sounds like the boast of a parent's first backyard firework display) and lack of a big hook let it down a bit. A solid effort nonetheless, although we all know LOCOG should have asked Chas & Dave instead.

Björk - Oceania (2004)

This song is undoubtedly the strangest entry on this list, but is subtly beautiful and was a brave, but successful choice from the 2004 Athens Games organisers. Originally written as part of her Medúlla album, the track is entirely recorded using human voices, including the Leeds beatboxer Shlomo. Additionally, in contrast to the usual sporting lyrics, Oceania is written from the point of view of the ocean, who sings about the evolution of humans from her waters. You don't get that with Bryan Adams.

Gloria Estefan - Reach (1996)

Written for the Atlanta Games in 1996, Reach was written by power ballad queen Diane Warren and Gloria herself. A solid effort, it doesn't quite 'reach' the heights of Warren's usual classics, although the key change at 2:44 is absolutely textbook. Basically what we're saying is that she should have sung this Reach instead.

Christopher Cross - A Chance For Heaven (1984)

Something of a lost gem, this song was apparently the official 'swimming theme' for the 1984 LA Olympics. The lyrics, however, refer to 'one more mountain to climb' so hopefully the swimmers didn't follow its advice too closely. The track itself is a classic bit of Eighties songwriting and production, complete with crowd noises in the middle and a seriously dodgy key change right at the end. It's no Arthur's Theme but it's close: a big tune.