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The Top 10: Anthems For Olympians

We find ourselves in the midst of another major sporting event and it’s time to have a little bit of fun. So rather than debating artistic legacies and greatest tracks, it’s time to pick 10 tracks that capture the Olympic aesthetic and the spirit of competition.

10. The Winner Takes It All – Abba

Pretty self-explanatory. The Olympics are a glorious celebration of athleticism and common values, it’s a great celebration of integration and co-operation as millions of people from across the world sit side by side and have a good time – but at the end of the day we remember the winners. This song was written about the divorce between Ulvaeus and Fatskog but in truly ham-fisted fashion they couldn’t help but throw in some clunky couplets about “playing by the rules” that thankfully makes this gem perfect for the Olympics, where the winner takes it all and the loser stands small.

9. Fight Test – Flaming Lips

Another song about relationships, but this one works as a crisp metaphor for competitive spirit. Wayne Coyne plays it cool, refusing to duke it out like a philistine, but in the process he loses the prize (his would be girlfriend). In Olympic terms the track is about letting the moment passing you by, about stepping aside, not giving your all in those pivotal seconds that decide your life’s story.

8. Marathon – Rush

There is something wonderfully appropriate about Rush writing a song called “Marathon” about running a marathon. After all, if there was to be a marathon between bands, I’d bet on Rush. These guys can play forever. Lee can power out a 15 minute bass solo, and he’s not a patch on Neil Peart. Rush capture the Olympian dedication, nothing is left to chance: “More Than My Performance, More Than Just A Spark, More Than Just A Lucky Shot In The Dark”. Plus in terms of sport songs, it has that wonderfully enlivening ‘80s sports movie veneer.

7. No Distance Left To Run – Blur

Again, another track that is not literally about racing, this is the crushing end of a relationship, and the ache that inevitably ensues. Still it proves perfect for those heartbreaking moments when a career ends and at athlete must drift off into the intimidating unknown. “No Distance Left To Run’ is equally apt for the athlete who’s tank is running on empty. The teary eyed tragedies, the cyclist who crashes, the sprinter who tears his hamstring, and Paula Radcliff sitting at home nursing her injuries, haunted by missed opportunities.

6. The Distance – Cake 

Okay…Okay…Okay…so there are some clear references to motor racing, and the whole track is an ironic metaphor, but “The Distance” still captures the Olympic ethos with a satirical twist. It’s all downhill after the starting gun for The Distance’s star, as he finishes the race after the winner and the crowd has left the stadium. Unable to accept defeat or to move on his life, the narrator is trapped in a moment of inadequacy. Sometimes life is tough, and so is sport. Noble or depressing, you decide.

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Author: david

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