With the Olympics Games underway, those watching will be hearing numerous national anthems. Having followed the games myself over the decades, plus other international sporting events (World Cup, etc), I’ve heard a lot of anthems. Most make no impression on me but a few are really nice, even beautiful. So on the occasion of the Olympics here’s my personal Top 10, with the best renditions I found on the Internet. I can see why patriotic sentiments are stirred in nationals of the listed countries when hearing their anthem. Even I’m moved by most of them. Voilà:
10. SPAIN: Marcha Real
9. ITALY: Il Canto degli Italiani
8: NETHERLANDS: Het Wilhelmus
7. ISRAEL: Hatikva
6: UNITED KINGDOM: God Save the Queen
5. INDIA: Jana Gana Mana
4: RUSSIA: Gosudarstvenný gimn Rossijskoj Federací
3. SOUTH AFRICA: Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika—Die Stem van Suid-Afrika
2. GERMANY: Deutschlandlied
1. FRANCE: La Marseillaise
I’ve said it countless times and will say it again: La Marseillaise is the greatest national anthem in the world. The version linked to above—with the first three stanzas, sung at the end of last month’s Bastille Day parade, at the Place de la Concorde—may be the best I’ve ever heard (and with accompanying video). Here’s another version, which people will be familiar with. N.B. The version of the German anthem linked to includes the now taboo first stanza (only the third is officially sung), but the video is great. As for the Indian anthem, one will almost never hear it at an international sporting event—cricket and field hockey excepted—which is too bad, as it’s beautiful. The great Russian anthem: the video I linked to is a tad kitschy, as one will note. The South African: this one really moves me (the first part at least).
If the European Union were a nation, its anthem, Ode to Joy, would definitely make the Top 10.
Likewise with L’Internationale, which, if it were the anthem of a nation, would also be near the top.
Algeria’s Kassaman: the score and cadence are too martial for my taste.
And The Star-Spangled Banner? It’s okay. Doesn’t particularly move me, though. I am not filled with frissons patriotiques when I hear it. It would probably make my Top 20 but definitely doesn’t the Top 10.