INVESTIGATING THE OLYMPIC theme music, I found a Smithsonian article which explains the muddled mess quite nicely. In a nutshell, the primary theme Americans identify with the Olympics is Leo Arnaud’s “Bugler’s Dream”, not composed by John Williams, who however added to “Bugler’s Dream” with his own original composition for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Outside of the U.S., the music most associated with the Olympics is the Chariots of Fire theme music by Vangelis. That’s too bad for foreigners, because the American take is grand, spirited music that I have for most of my life strongly associated with the Olympic games — and it is so completely apt. The Chariots of Fire music is also beautiful and spirited, and I associate it too with the Olympics — but only in a secondary manner by way of the movie. I am happy as an American to be able to embrace both pieces of music.
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Looking into the Olympic music caused me to reflect on Chariots of Fire, a superbly great movie. Roger Ebert gave his highest rating:
This is strange. I have no interest in running and am not a partisan in the British class system. Then why should I have been so deeply moved by “Chariots of Fire,” a British film that has running and class as its subjects? I’ve toyed with that question since I first saw this remarkable film in May 1981 at the Cannes Film Festival, and I believe the answer is rather simple: Like many great films, “Chariots of Fire” takes its nominal subjects as occasions for much larger statements about human nature.
Indeed. Among all the remarkable aspects of this movie is its score, the brilliant collection by Vangelis. Beyond the well-known main theme, the entire soundtrack is thoroughly modern, yet works magically as a defining theme perfectly in harmony with the period story. I realize Chariots of Fire is a well-known and highly regarded film, having won four Oscars including Best Picture. But that does not preclude a mention here: it is highly recommended, essential viewing.