Olympic anthem of the day #2: Team Refugee!

Popole Misenga, one of the Team Refugee's judoka. He's originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where, due to the war, his mother was murdered and he had to flee to the rainforest alone

Popole Misenga, one of Team Refugee’s judokas. Originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, his mother was murdered when he was just six and he had to flee to the rainforest alone

There are, brilliantly, ten refugees competing at the Olympics: five South Sudanese, two Syrians, two judokas from the Democratic Republic of Congo and an Ethiopian marathon runner.

What anthem will they hear in the miraculous event they win gold? Not their own. And that’s a huge shame as it’d be great if the Syrians, especially, could stand on the podium and sing theirs as if saying, “I represent this country – not the war.”

Instead, any who do win will get the Olympic anthem, which is an even bigger shame as it’s appalling – an overblown hymn that relies on being high-pitched to stir emotion.

I should give it some slack, though. It was written in 1896 and its lyrics, at least, are suitable for the Olympics, calling at one point for God to “shine in the momentum of noble contests…running, wrestling, throwing.”

It’s a shame those words are in Greek, mind. I’m not sure how many Congolese refugees are au fait with the language.

If you’d like to know more about the refugees’ own anthems, here’s a blog about the bizarre fact all sides of the Syrian conflict sing the same tune; here’s an interview with Mido Samuel, the inspiring composer of South Sudan’s, once a refugee himself; and here’s a blog about Ethiopia’s appalling anthem.

I’ve surprisingly not written about the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s beautiful anthem, Debout Congolaise (Arise, Congolese), before, but here it is for you. It’s the only national anthem with a call-and-response section, so listen out for that towards the end.

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