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After having dinner with a friend last night, she, Hubby and I plopped down on her couch and watched some of the Olympics – short track speed skating, which is so simultaneously graceful and tension-inducing that I could hardly sit still. We were rooting for Apolo Ohno, who has those sneaky fast breathtaking moves, along with a killer cool name.

But I’m getting sidetracked. During each commercial break, the Olympic theme song was played. You know … Daah daah duh don don don da ….. And I got to wondering when the song was written and who wrote it. It’s the kind of song that sounds like it’s been around forever.

Internet to the rescue! The Olympic theme song we hear nowadays was written by none other than movie soundtrack dude extraordinaire John Williams. He has composed so many recognizable movie theme songs – Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, ET – that it’s no surprise that he was asked to compose a new Olympics theme song, which he did in 1984. The song is officially called Olympic Fanfare and Theme and there’s more to it than the snippet we get for commercials.

According to the full description of the piece on John Williams’ website, when he was composing the new song, he had to be cognizant of the old theme, called Bugler’s Dream, which was written by Leo Arnaud in c. 1958. (Leo was no stranger to movie soundtracks himself.) He had to write something that would be just as recognizable and ebullient as Arnaud’s song. In fact, the two songs are often played together as medleys, so in listening to the two of them, it’s hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins.

Here’s a link from Best Week Ever that contains Olympic Fanfare and Theme by John Williams. (Incidentally, the article title is “Adding The Olympic Theme Song to Anything Makes it Infinitely More Inspiring.” True that.)

Here’s a link from YouTube that contains Bugler’s Dream by Leo Arnaud as played by the Marquette Symphonic Band. I wanted to pick a version not played in relation to the Olympics so you could hear the difference.

Interesting how the things we get accustomed to can have complicated stories that we know nothing about and don’t always think to ask.

As if the story of the Olympic theme song isn’t enough, during my research I discovered a site that shows other songs written for specific Olympic games. The videos are a treat.