mon 15/07/2024

The best and worst national anthems? Time to award the medals | reviews, news & interviews

The best and worst national anthems? Time to award the medals

The best and worst national anthems? Time to award the medals

The tunes that inspire gold, and those that limp home. Do you agree?

The sound of gold: scullers Kath Grainger and Anna Watkins on their new Royal Mail stamp

The onerous task of recording all 205 national anthems for playing at the Olympics medal ceremonies has fallen on the London Philharmonic Orchestra. An edited group of 36 players has recorded the anthems at the Abbey Road Studios in 60 gruelling recording hours over six days. But which would try their patience most?

The anthems - every one known in the world, good, bad and indifferent - have been arranged by British composer and cellist Phillip Sheppard, who did the British anthem arrangement for the Beijing Olympics closing ceremony. Judging from a selection below, he would be giving the LPO trumpets plenty to do.

Sebastian Coe, chair of the London 2012, and a former multiple gold-medallist as a runner, described the emotional impact  of hearing his national anthem as he stood on the winner’s podium. “The playing of anthems is one of the most emotive parts of any Games, and it was an incredible moment for me at the Moscow and Los Angeles games.”

With the Paralympics following immediately after the Olympic Games, the winning anthems that will be heard most often include some of the dullest tunes - the British national anthem is widely rated one of the most musically disappointing, and it's hoped that more than 30 gold medals will go to Team GB.


10 Gold-Medal National Anthems


Russia - inspiring


Italy - jaunty


Japan - moving


Bangladesh - lilting


Jamaica - stately


Israel - tragic


France - rousing


Hungary - soulful


Cameroon - bouncy


Bulgaria - tear-jerking


5 Wooden Spoon Anthems










United Kingdom


The winning anthems that will be heard most often include some of the dullest tunes

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I have to say that I think our National Anthem is not only a dirge of a tune, but it also isn't actually about Britain. It instead is an exhortation that God should save the titular head of the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha family, who later changed their name to "Windsor" to avoid war-related embarrassment. We need a new tune- and new lyrics.

As long as the British Royal Family is held in high regard I doubt there is any chance of that ever happening. Although I agree that it is a pretty dull and inappropriate anthem, and I'm the last person to love royal families, suggesting that it got changed would be like a slap in their royal faces.

It won't be heard at the Olympics but Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (= Land of My Fathers) is undoubtedly one of the top five anthems, being the product of an ingrained musical culture. As for the bottom five, well I'm no fan of Fiji's...

"Maamme", the Finnish anthem also used for Estonia (and Livonia!), is a noble candidate. Though the Finns have always wanted to replace it with the proud bit of Sibelius's Finlandia, which like Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 had words set to it post hoc.

The British Anthem was highly regarded by no less a musician than Beethoven, who knew a thing or two about tunes. I agree however that the words are out of tune with the times, and even when written were crassly inappropriate. Is there any other country in the world - other than a dictatorship - which has an anthem praising its head of state?

I have to agree that the British national anthem a "dirge of a tune". Surprised that Brazil wasn't nominated as one of the best. One of my personal favourites. I catch myself listening to it with a smile from time to time.

The British National Anthem has one great advantage over most other examples - it is short!


i agree

You have used the now defunct Iraqi national anthem fyi. For those interested in the correct (and superior imo) anthem, here it is:

No South Africa??

Algerian Athem is actually really nice

How come no one mentioned anything about the Egyptian national anthem composed by Beethoven of the Arab World Sayed Darwish ..I honestly believe that the Egyptian anthem as a symphony to the neutral ear should be rated as one of the best 5 anthems on the globe..not mentioning that Egypt is the home of arts in the Arab world from the beginning of time to date so it’s not at all unusual Egyptians have one of the most fancy national anthems that you may ever come across

I actually think that the Czech Republic has one of the best National Anthems I have ever heard. Aside from China and Brazil of course, but truthfully it's all of individual opinion.

This is simply a subjective view about national anthems; I would even go as far as saying that it is a corporate, consensual, and patronizing view of the British establishment arse lickers. "God save the Queen", is the most masochistic of them all, a Queen who is sucking the blood out of a nation, who is very happy imploring god to save their blood sucking Queen, lol... Why don't you ask the people to be the judge of such a contest, maybe the wooden spoon would be given to the boring British "God save the Queen", which should be used to send baby to sleep ...I always worn when I hear it.

You should know by now that Britain is no more than a constitutional monarchy. The Queen is not in anyway in charge, she is just a figurehead where the Conservatives are the ones who really lead the country. I just wish they replaced 'God Save the Queen' with 'Jerusalem' - only the Scots, Northern Irish and Welsh would get annoyed because it says England not Britain.

I'm Welsh and it wouldn't bother us, we don't recognise or sing God Save the Queen because we've got our own national anthem. As a neutral observer I agree that Jerusalem would be a far better choice for England as a national anthem. My personal favourite (aside from my own) is the German anthem it's very stirring

they managed to botch the Brazilian National Anthem at the Closing Ceremony. I felt embarrassed for the orchestra. Didn't they follow a score or something?

Indian anthem need a wooden spoon for it's lyrics. Written by a Nobel prize winner but I am sure people are clueless about it's meaning. Many say it's written to prais King George, I would agree on that point. Worst Anthem for any nation. You struggle hundreds of years for freedom, and after all sacrifice, you choose the Ruling country King's praise as your National anthom. What an Irony.

Please do not give voice to someone else's itch. Keep quite if you do not know the meaning of India Anthem. India is the only nation with one official language in each state. India's national anthem is mix of Sanskrit and Bengali as the author belongs to Bengal state. Hence many people who belong to other states may not understand the Anthem completely as it is in different language for them unless someone translates for them.

When we sing our national anthem, we don't really feel like praising King Geroge but we feel the sensation of togetherness and victory. The original purpose of the song might be controversial but it suits the nation perfectly in today's context.

Tagore's own statement however refutes the belief that the song was written in praise of George V: In a letter to Pulin Behari Sen, Tagore later wrote, "A certain high official in His Majesty's service, who was also my friend, had requested that I write a song of felicitation towards the Emperor. The request simply amazed me. It caused a great stir in my heart. In response to that great mental turmoil, I pronounced the victory in Jana Gana Mana of that Bhagya Vidhata [ed. God of Destiny] of India who has from age after age held steadfast the reins of India's chariot through rise and fall, through the straight path and the curved. That Lord of Destiny, that Reader of the Collective Mind of India, that Perennial Guide, could never be George V, George VI, or any other George. Even my official friend understood this about the song. After all, even if his admiration for the crown was excessive, he was not lacking in simple common sense."

Cameroon! WOW! What else can I say?

Where's the Star-Spangled Banner? OK we might have heard that a lot of times. But listen to God Defend New Zealand, with it's emotional tune. And My Kazakhstan (not the Borat one), that really takes the cake.

WHAT THE HELL!!! India's national anthem is not written to praise the ruling king the people who dont understand it please get your facts straight dont disrespect one's country by asumming things . . rabindranath tagore wrote this national anthem to praise india and its beauty geez ! theres something called google before you comment the transalation is..... Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people, Dispenser of India's destiny. Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sindhu, Gujarat and Maratha, Of the Dravida and Orissa and Bengal; It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas, mingles in the music of Yamuna and Ganges and is chanted by the waves of the Indian Ocean. They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise. The saving of all people waits in thy hand, Thou dispenser of India's destiny. Victory, victory, victory to thee.

replace god save the queen with Sin é Fianna Fáil (Éire)

Hey is not the really anthem for algeria the music is very bad show the officiel anthem and see the diference

The Norwegian national anthem actually has words, which make the piece much more beautiful, I cannon believe that you put the Norwegian national anthem on here without people singing, it is disgraceful. Shame on you

First off, im from New Zealand & i have to nominate "God Defend New Zealand" as THE worst National Anthen. We are NOT a particularly religious country, so why a religious anthem?

Mate I am from Mew Zealand and God defend New Zealand in Maori is fantastic. Many of us still adhere to God and just because you don't believe in anything doesn't mean we should as well.

The Anthem cannot always be fashionable. I know as an expat New Zealand has this liberal tyrannism....if you're not "with it" and conform" to a plethora of gay- anti life - save the penguin opinion, you're ostracized.

I love Bangladeshi National anthem written by a Nobel prize winner Rabindranath tagore. It's amazing. It create an extreme feelings. I also love Indian National Anthem as well, which is not listed here.

With due respects the Bangladesh anthem does go on forever!

I liked the Israeli Anthem..Where is but the Indian One..It is so beautiful

How is South Korea's anthem not on this list!?!?! It's beautiful!

The Croatia anthem is my favourite by a distance - beautiful and inspiring.

Where is the Mexicvan Anthem? is the most beautiful Anthem ever! you need to listen it

Wheres the Irish national anthem???? A soldiers song, sung during the 1916 uprising and eventual war of independence. Not many can claim such an origin and history.

Karl, are you kidding me? That does not even compete with some of the things other countries have gone through. My great grandfather was a member of IRA before it was a terrorist organization. He was in all that stuff and it was nothing more than a rebellion it is my home country and it is definitely not better than Israel's or any of the other top ones for that matter. Good day.- Liam

The IRA was NEVER a terrorist organisation

I don't know how the United States national anthem is not on this list?????????? No other national anthems, are able to get me so hyped up and literally ready for battle! A great song and I see why they sing it before every sports event in the U.S. Definitely great motivation!

Pakistans is actually quite good.

My favorites are the Hungarian, Russian, United Statian, Canadian, German and Israeli.

I agree that the British anthem is a dirge. The most un uplifting, depressing & worst national anthem in the world. I entirely agree that Jerusalem would be outstanding. We seem to have a collective insanity on this matter, why do we keep god save the queen when we all know its a national embarrassment? I refuse to listen to it. That said, I do like the sex pistols version.

PAKISTANI national anthem is the best in the world.

If you want to hear a magnificient national anthem list to "a Portuguesa". Portugal's national anthem

Iran's anthem carries the highest humanistic and moral meanings than any other nation. Iranians must be very proud.

Have somebody ever heard the National Anthem of the Dominican Republic, I mean the lyrics? Is one of the most beautiful lyrics I ever heard in a anthem.

Missing Australia for the wooden spoon. It is not patriotic, moving or anything that shows pride. Also, it is four chords - the national anthem is a fecking pop song! I actually groan when it comes on. For great national anthems, I have always been fond of Canada's.


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