The music: You’d hope Iran’s anthem would match the stereotype of the place and be the darkest, most threatening possible. It’d be written by a death metal band or at least a Wagner-obsessed composer. Instead it’s this: a military march with hardly any bite.
Far better is Ey Iran, the anthem of the country immediately after the revolution of ‘79.
It’s a simple Arabic melody – the sort of thing you’ve heard in every dodgy Middle Eastern restaurant you’ve set foot in – but once in a while it seems to suddenly remember it’s meant to be patriotic and leaps into a fierce chorus. It sounds especially good when backed by out-of-time drumming and a drunk pianist.
The lyrics: The anthem’s words at least live up to one stereotype; they are incredibly religious. “Upwards on the horizon, the eastern sun rises, the lights in the eyes of the believers,” it starts. “Your message, O Iman…is imprinted on our souls.”
But, again, who would want that when Ey Iran’s available? That’s line after line of desperate longing, like a country singer phoning an ex-wife. “Bright is my destiny because of you,” it says, “Even if fire rains on my body, your love will flourish in my heart.”
What’s it say about the country? That it had a better music scene in Ayatollah Khomeini’s day. Which is odd, since he banned most music (until he realised that radio stations desperately needed something to fill airtime).
Will you hear it at the Games? Definitely. Just head to the weightlifting and wait for the super heavyweights. Behdad Salimi Kordasiabi won last year’s world championships, breaking a world record in the process (that’s him at the top of this post). And the only person who looks like beating him is also Iranian.