The music: If you’d lived in cold, wet Finland in the 1840s, under Russian occupation, you’d probably have welcomed anything for an anthem. Which probably explains why the Finns ended up with Maamme (Our Land), a song written in Swedish with music stolen from a German drinking song. If they’d waited 50 years, they could have had Finlandia by Sibelius instead.
But is there really anything wrong with it? Drinking songs are popular for a reason – you can drunkenly sing them – and that is pretty much all you want from an anthem.
The lyrics: The original Maamme had 11 verses, most of which go on about how beautiful Finland is. It’s all “rippling brooks” and “gushing streams” like an advert for a country guesthouse.
But the second verse does stand out for having one of the most perverse attempts to raise national spirits ever put to pen. “Our land is poor, and so will be for anyone looking for gold. Strangers will abandon it,” it says. Unsurprisingly, those lines are no longer sung.
What does it say about the country? That Finns are very happy with their countryside, and that they like a drink.
Will you hear it at the London Olympics? Potentially. Head to the shooting arena. Finland won one gold in Beijing in the women’s trap thanks to Satu Makela-Nummela, a waitress whose main hobby is playing the trumpet. She’ll be defending her title in London.