An Olympic Anthem, also called the Olympic Hymn, was composed for the 1896 Olympic Games by Greek composer Spyros Samaras (1863-1917), with words added by his colleague Kostis Palamas. The Olympic Anthem was first played at the 1896 Olympic Opening Ceremonies, performed by nine bands and a chorus. It was used again in 1906. Thereafter, a variety of musical offerings provided the background to the Opening Ceremonies until 1960. In 1954, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched a worldwide competition for a new version of an Olympic Anthem. From the 392 scores presented, the first prize went to Michał Spisak for his ultra-modern atonal work, with lyrics extracted from Pindar’s odes. It was never terribly popular and Spisak’s demands for excessive royalties led it not to be chosen as the official Olympic Anthem. It was elected to return to the Samaras/Palamas composition as the official Olympic Anthem.
The Samaras/Palamas anthem was played and sung at the 55th IOC session in 1958 in Tokyo. It was such an impressive demonstration that IOC Member Prince Axel (DEN) suggested that it should be adopted as the official anthem. This was unanimously approved, although two years of legal work then took place dealing with the heirs of Samaras and Palamas.
The Olympic Anthem was first used in that regard at the Opening Ceremonies in Rome two years later, since which time it has become an established part of the Olympic Ceremonies. The Olympic Charter terms this the Olympic Anthem, although it is often referred to as the Olympic Hymn.
In English, the lyrics to the Olympic Anthem are as follows:
Immortal spirit of antiquity,
Father of the true, beautiful and good,
Descend, appear, shed over is thy light
Upon this ground and under this sky
Which has first witnessed thy unperishable fame
Give life and animation to those noble games!
Throw wreaths of fadeless flowers to the victors
In the race and in the strife!
Create in our breasts, hearts of steel!
In thy light, plains, mountains and seas
Shine in a roseate hue and form a vast temple
To which all nations throng to adore thee,
Oh immortal spirit of antiquity!