My top 10 National Anthems

maracana brazil football final 2016 rio neymar

Date: 2004-2016
Location: Athens, Torino, Beijing, London, Sochi, Rio de Janeiro

I just love national anthems. Especially during the Olympics. And especially during medal ceremonies. And add to that the singing of the national anthem of the home country of the Games. The passion, the emotions, the proudness, it is all there during those unique moments.

I have witnessed during all my Olympics many of these moments, drenched in passion. Below a few of my all-time favourites.


1)Netherlands – Wilhelmus

How could I not put my country first? The national anthem of your home country gives many of us the biggest flush of Goosebumps. Especially combining it with a heroic victory. I have been privileged to see golden medals for the Dutch in 2006, 2008, 2012, 2014 and 2016.

We always sing along. Volume at 10. We have a few favourites; Dorian van Rijsselberghe at the beach in Rio, The Hockey gold in 2008 for the women against China at home. And the tears of Sharon van Rouwendaal at (again) the beach in Rio. Goosebumps in Rio sun.

But also, very beautiful was the singing Ranomi Kromowidjojo in London after her victory.

2)USA – The Star-Spangled Banner

The anthem that I heard, by far, the most. If I had to guess, probably around 40 times.

It is in itself a beautiful anthem with a good combination of sound and lyrics. We even witnessed full American podiums; with the 400m athletics in Rio. One of the best versions was with the Golden medal of the Dream team Basketball in London. With Kobe Bryant. Those super millionaires all sang the anthem. Also, with their hands on their hearts. Beautiful.

Here a version of Marvin Gaye combined with the London ’12 triumph of the Dream team.

3)Russia – The national anthem of the Russian Federation

Me and my Olympic friend have one tradition; and that is to sing along the Russian anthem. Always. This started in Beijing, where Isabajeva won the gold on pole-vault after she beat the world record late in the night.

As soon as we start singing the locals are always looking with a mixture of respect and utter incomprehension. What are those guys singing? What does it mean? Well, frankly, we don’t have a clue and the fact that we change lyrics every time does not make it easier. The anthem is heavy and serious. Just like Russia. The best versions are with a male choir like here in Sochi’14.

4)France – La Marseillaise

I must admit, I do have a weak spot for La Marseillaise. The French anthem. The lyrics, the staccato melody. It’s a beautiful song when you go to battle. I imagine Figural speaking.

“Children of the nation…March. March. The day of victory has come!” Well, it’s perfect for the Games. I always sing it along as well, pardon my French.

Here the version of Teddy Riner, the French superstar in Judo at the London’12 Olympics

5)England – God save the Queen

Team GB did an outstanding job during the London 2012 Games. Watching every night after our own visited events the BBC with the highlights.

An incredible 29 times the “God save the Queen” was played out. To the exaltation of the fantastic home crowd. Most memorable for us was Andy Murray. At the time of London 12 he had never won Wimbledon. But he did during his hometown Olympics. The Chills at centre court that day.

The British cán sing!

6)Italy – Il Canto degli Italini

Since my wife is from Italy it cannot be missed in this list. Having heard the anthem numerous times, but not during the Olympics. I grew up with Michael Schumacher winning grandprix after grandprix in his red Ferrari. And then orchestrating the crowds from the podium during the fantastic cheerful hymn of Italy. But I can’t remember one time during the Olympics…

Here Michael Schumacher as I remember him

7)Brazil – Hino Nacional Brasileiro

“Terra adorada. Entre outras mil, És tu, Brasil” (Amongst thousand others, art thou, Brazil).

Just a sentence from the national anthem of Brazil. That it is sung with passion I knew already as child growing up with Football World cups and Brasil winning titles. I was always amazed how the players sang together before their games. Shoulder to shoulder and moving with their full body. Only the Italians come close…

But the chills I had as a child in front of the television did not come close to the feeling of hearing 80.000 Brazilian fans singing in Maracana after Brazil took the Olympic gold in Football. I will never forget that moment of joint passion and utter relieve after the World cup ’14 deception. It all went out in one burst of emotion that evening in Rio: “Ó Pátria amada, Idolatrada. Salve! Salve!” (Thou art kind mother, beloved homeland, Brazil; Salve! Salve!)

Images (put the sound up) from Maracana ’16.

8)Germany- Lied der Deutschen

I did like as a young kid the German anthem. I was not supposed to do as a citizen from the Netherlands. During my Olympics games on my Commodore 64 back in the early 90’s I liked the melody. And when Holland beat Germany during the European championships in 1988, I liked it even more. We always were losing against Germany, so this gave me a better sense of the Brazilians during that night at Maracana.

9)China – March of the Volunteers

Beijing 2008 gave us plenty of opportunity to practise the Chinese anthem; 48 (!) times; leading the USA with a difference of 12!

Did I feel the same as in Brasil? No but the disciplined way of the crowds did transfer the feeling of proudness of the Chinese people. Especially during the ‘Chinese’’ events like table tennis (Ma Lin) and Gymnastics. Orchestrated, drilled groups of fans but thankfully also many Chinese families that genuinely felt the emotion of those moments. China often let children sing their anthem, which in below case sounds beautiful.

10)Jamaica- Land we Love

This top 10 cannot be complete without Bolt’s anthem. Jamaica. You would expect a very cheerful anthem, but it’s very formal and drenched with respect.

In the stadiums always sung along by the hometown fans. The joy they radiated was contagious. Although I have put the Netherlands on top of this list; I wonder how far Jamaica would get up in this list if only I had been present in the Jamaica House after Bolts final gold in Rio…

See here the anthem for Bolt’s 100m gold in Beijing seen from a Jamaican fan😊

Out of competition: The Olympic Hymn 

And did you know that the Olympics have their own anthem? Well it’s not really an anthem but a Hymn, therefore out of competition. But an ecstatic version of the Olympic spirit!

And do you miss your favourite? Check out this full list:

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