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The Olympic Anthem

The poem "Ancient Immortal Spirit" touched so many hearts and represented so well the Olympic ideal that a decision was made to adopt it as the official anthem of the Olympic games.

Olympic anthem

Above: The Olympic anthem,
"Ancient Immortal Spirit"

The Poem that Was Treasured as a Song
The Olympic anthem began as a poem written in 1893 by one of the best known and loved Greek poets of the 20th century, Costas Palamas (1859-1943).

Palamas's poem was set to music in 1896 by the Greek composer Spiros Samaras (1853-1917) and introduced at the first revived Olympics in Athens that same year.

Today, the Olympic anthem is sung in many languages. Because the lyrics have to follow the music, translations vary. The legacy of this Hellenic song now reaches far beyond Greece.

"Ancient Immortal Spirit"
The English version below is a fairly faithful translation of Palamas's Greek poem:

"Ancient Immortal Spirit"
Ancient Immortal Spirit, chaste Father
of all that is Beauty, Grandeur, and Truth,
Descending, appear with Thy presence
Illuminate Thine Earth and the Heavens.

Shine upon noble endeavors wrought
at the Games on the Track and in the Field.
Crown with Thy eternal evergreen branch
The bodies, making them stronger and worthy.

Dale, Mount, and Ocean, with Thy Light
as a white and purple temple, brighten!
To Thine Temple, to Thy worship, come all.
O Ancient Eternal Spirit!

The Official Anthem
Throughout the years, many different versions were played and sung at the Olympics. Finally, in 1958, the International Olympic Committee adopted one version as the official anthem of the Olympic games.

The loose rendition of Palamas's poem that appears below is the English version that has been sung at every Olympic games since 1958:

Immortal Spirit of antiquity,
Father of the true, beautiful, and good,
Descend, appear, shed over us Thy light
Upon this ground and under this sky

Which has first witnessed Thy imperishable fame.
Give life and animation to those noble games!
Throw wreaths of fadeless flowers to the victors
In the race and in strife!

Create in our breasts, hearts of steel!
Shine in a roseate hue and form a vast temple
To which all nations throng to adore Thee,
O immortal Spirit of antiquity.

The Olympic anthem is played as the Olympic flag is raised during the opening cermony.

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