The Olympics Games (an international sporting event played every four years) has its own flag and “hymn”, used when the Olympic flag is raised, usually during the opening and closing ceremonies.

The Olympic Hymn first appeared at the first Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, Greece. The lyrics were written in Greek by Greece’s national poet, Kostis Palamas and set to music by Spyros Samaras for the 1896 Games. The hymn was not used again, nor was it officially adopted, for several decades; until the 1960 Games, each country would commission local composers to compose an Olympic hymn for that particular Games. A hymn was officially adopted in 1954 and used in the 1956 Games, which was intended to be the Olympic hymn, but due to disputes, the original Olympic hymn was unanimously adopted as the official Olympic Hymn at the 1958 IOC meeting. Written in Greek, the IOC’s preference is that the Olympic Hymn be performed in either English or Greek. If it is to be performed in the local language, it is to be translated from the original Greek, rather than the English.

National anthems play a big part in the Olympic Games. Starting with the 1924 Games, the winner’s national anthem for each event is played as their flag is hoisted in celebration. Also, according to Olympic rules, national anthems cannot be longer than 80 seconds in length, causing some countries to create a shortened version of their anthem to be played at the Games in the event that their participant wins. (Ironically, the full version of the Olympic Hymn is several minutes long!) Also, a nation may choose to have another anthem played instead of their national one if they so choose; for example, at the 1992 Games, the former Soviet republics united under a team known as the “Unified Team”, whenever a member of this team won their event, they chose the song “Ode to Joy” to be played. During the 1980 Games in Moscow, several non-Communist countries that were participating chose to have the Olympic Hymn played rather than their own anthem when they won their event. Also, because of conflicts with China, Taiwan has a special song which they use for such events known as the “Flag Raising Song”.