Athletes from at least two competing countries have indicated their displeasure with the versions of their national anthems being played at the London Olympics and have asked for a correct version of the anthems to be played in future.
First Hungary, then Holland requested the correct version of their national anthem be played at gold-medal ceremonies for their athletes. The furor comes after a fast-paced rendition of the Hungarian anthem was played Monday after Hungarian sabre fencer Áron Szilágyi won the individual men’s sabre, according to Reuters and MTI while Dutch News pointed to strange sounds incorporated in the Dutch national anthem.
Neither team has lodged a formal complaint, but has contacted the organisers unofficially, aiming to avoid creating unnecessary tension
The Hungarian anthem, called „Himnusz”, or „Hymn”, is essentially a prayer and has a slow, dirge-like cadence, influenced by the period it was written in, when Hungary was just emerging from centuries of Turkish and Austrian domination, while the Dutch anthem, the Wilhelmus, was written during Holland’s struggle for independence, and is somewhat more martial.
Apparently, the Hungarian athlete tried to sing along on Monday, but was unable to, due to the too-jaunty rhythm of the version written by the London Philharmonic, led by Philip Sheppard.
It is not clear why the anthems were not checked out by representatives of the relevant nations, but Hungarian televion stated no-one was asked to listen in and apparently, nor were the Dutch.
I was watching the fencing and when I heard the Hungarian anthem, I was taken aback, but did not think too much of it. However, many in Hungary have voiced disapproval and a descendent of the writer of „Himnusz”, Ákos Somogyvári, Chairman of the Ferenc Erkel Society (Erkel wrote the music) expressed shock and dismay and called on media to help him get the version changed.
I could not help feeling that perhaps Sheppard, being a musician, wanted to add some artistic flair to his renditions, but if that is the case, I suppose a solemn moment, that of winning gold for your country, is not exactly the place to try it out.
No doubt there will be a few more glitches, after all, Sheppard and the Philharmonic had to record no less than 205 national anthems, so there is room for error! Also, they had to be shortened to some 90 seconds, the time it takes to raise the three flags for gold, silver and bronze winners.
A storm in a teacup? Perhaps? But if you’ve just won arguably the greatest accolade in sports, you might not be ready for a rap version of your national anthem!