London Philharmonic records every national anthem for Olympics

Chris Chase
September 27, 2011

The national anthems for every country competing in next summer's Olympics were recorded over the past few days by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.

More than 200 anthems were recorded at The Beatles' old Abbey Road Studios, beginning with Afghanistan and ending with Zimbabwe. The orchestra spent 10-12 minutes sight reading, performing and recording each anthem. It took 52 hours to complete the process.

They had help on the British national anthem, "God Save The Queen." Former track star Jonathan Edwards contributed the final cymbal crash on the track. It's a crash fans in Great Britain will hope to hear a lot of next summer.

Though most of the anthems won't be heard on the medal stand -- only 52 nations won gold medals in Beijing -- every country's Olympic delegation will hear their anthems at least twice during the Games, during their entrances to the Opening and Closing Ceremony.

The shortest anthem was Uganda's, lasting only 18 seconds. The longest was Uruguay's, which goes on for seven minutes. Both were heavily edited to fit the required 60- to 90-second running time. Olympic rules dictate that the anthems must last that long so the victor's flag can be raised.

Conductor Philip Sheppard told the BBC that there were two reasons for recording 205 separate anthems. "One is artistic, to create a faithful [rendition] but redesigned with a fresh spin," he said. "The other reason is legal -- you don't want to replicate a previous arrangement."