Monday, August 15, 2016

The Olympic Blurb 2016: Day 10

If I were to say, "Sing a few bars of the Olympic song," everyone might have a different song to sing. They might think that it's just one song, and they're singing different parts. In actuality, there are several Olympic themes, and the ones you're thinking of are probably most commonly used in the United States.

Let's get historical, shall we?

The first piece heard is "Bugler's Dream" by Leo Arnaud. However, the part you're thinking of actually is not the first song heard before an Olympics broadcast! The first part is actually right at the start of broadcast, when (this year) the collage of Olympic athletes is shown and the NBC logo is shown.

The second piece is the fanfare from "Bugler's Dream." It starts with the timpani and brings in the brass in a very bombastic fashion. The song is from the album Charge! written in 1958, and ABC actually used it in its Olympics broadcasting only ten years later, in the 1968 Winter Olympics.

If I ever were to hear this piece in person, it would be very hard for me not to sing along. It also makes me think of landscapes, because NBC usually coincides the fanfare with shots of the host country's beautiful countryside or cityscape.

Here is the original "Bugler's Dream" song. It's a bit lighter on instrumentation, but you can hear both pieces I mentioned above near the beginning:



Usually the version heard is combined with Williams' 1984 Olympic fanfare, composed for the Los Angeles Olympics and conducted by Williams himself with the Boston Pops Orchestra. The "Theme" part of "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" is probably the most recognizable as an Olympic theme to the American population. NBC uses it to to go into commercials and back into coverage.

However, the "Fanfare" portion is not the "Bugler's Dream"! The songs were combined for a re-release of the song to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Modern Olympics in 1996, and that is the version that is still widely spread around today.

Over the years, lighter parts of this song are used when introducing a story piece or an interview in NBC's broadcast studio.

It's not often that a piece is over 30 years old, not associated with a movie soundtrack, and still widely recognized by much of the population! Listen to the original 1984 version here:


Now here is the 1996 re-released version, combining "Bugler's Dream" with the "Olympic Theme":



Williams did pen another piece for the 1996 Atlanta Games, and NBC still uses it, most commonly with their daytime coverage. The piece is called "Summon the Heroes," and was also performed in the Opening Ceremonies by Williams.

Honestly, I used to think that "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" and "Summon the Heroes" were the same piece. It took a bit of research and recognition later in my childhood to understand the differences. The 1996 theme was widely used during my very first Olympic experience, so I have a big connection to that piece.

Listen to it here:


There was a final Williams song composed for an Olympics, but it isn't used much anymore. It's a real shame, because it's very beautiful. It was composed for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Since those were in Salt Lake City, Williams used the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in the piece, singing the words of the Olympic motto: "Citius, Altius, Fortius." (Swifter, Higher, Stronger)

I was really hoping NBC might use this piece during all of its Winter Olympics, but in Torino, Vancouver, and Sochi, it was not. Alas.

Regardless, I love it to death. Here it is:


Apparently, the song associated with the Olympics outside of the US happens to be "Chariots of Fire."

But what is the actual Olympic song? It's called the Olympic Hymn, and it was composed by Greek Spyridon Samaris with lyrics by fellow Greek Kostis Palamas. It was performed at the first Modern Olympic games in 1896 and declared the Olympic Anthem in 1958. It is performed at the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, and has been done in several different languages.

Most of the time, like two Fridays ago, the Hymn is performed by children. Other times, it is by an adult choir, and still other times, an opera singer who really belts it out. Any way it's done, it still makes me cry. Here it is:



Hopefully you have learned a little something about the music of the Olympics! Now let's move to the mini blurbs...

  • Today's roundup:
    • men's standing kayak
    • gymnastics
    • track and field
    • men's wrestling
    • boxing
    • track cycling
    • men's volleyball
  • How ridiculous that both a male and female athlete fell across the finish line in track and field today, and because they did it, they did better than if they'd just ran across the line. As a matter of fact, the Bahamas' Shaunae Miller won the women's 400m because of her dive, narrowly beating Allyson Felix. There's never gonna be a rule saying you need to be on your feet when you cross, but there should be.
  • A rain delay during a track meet? Millions of current and former high school track and field athletes know the feeling. 
  • I see France's Pascal Martinot-Lagarde, and I just think of America's Favorite Fighting Frenchman, especially because his hair was pulled back in a very similar 'do to Lafayette in Hamilton. (Look him up.)
  • Not widely reported in some circles but reported by NBC Nightly News, an Olympic camera fell outside the basketball arena, causing injuries, and a fire caused delays over by the field hockey venue. 
  • If you're interested, the origins behind the steeplechase go back to Irish horses and riders that would ride from one church steeple in town to another town's church steeple, jumping over water and low walls. Oxford made it a cross-country sport, and then it was made into a track event later, still using water and barrier obstacles. 
  • It seems like the gymnasts who compete in the event finals usually are the ones who try the ridiculous routines and just hope they land it. Consistency is key. Which makes it even more mind boggling that Laurie Hernandez didn't get gold today. She had a very consistent routine!
  • In my grade-school-volleyball-athlete mind, if a ball is served over but still hits the net, that should NOT count! It should be a fault! The fact that the rule has changed in the last few years in professional volleyball is hard to comprehend. For 30 years I have always known that net serves don't count!
  • Out of all the field events to single out, I picked a poor night to do so. I watched men's pole vaulting, and between the rain delay and the faulty barrier, it took forever! Looking forward to seeing more stuff like women's discus and men's triple jump. Those at least have a definitive start and finish.
All right! Until next time!

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