The Paralympics – more anthems than the Olympics (including some words on Trinidad and Tobago’s)

Australia on their way to winning gold at the wheelchair rugby. Always an amazing sport to watch

Ouch! Australia on their way to winning gold at the wheelchair rugby

If you watched the Paralympics, you might have noticed something. No, not that wheelchair rugby is an incredibly violent sport. But that the countries that won gold are hugely different to the Olympics winners.

Some 63 countries took that medal, four more than at the Olympics, and 17 of those didn’t win one gold a month ago, and that includes such giants (in population terms) as India, Egypt and Nigeria. What does that mean? Well, it probably says a lot about the lack of money in the Paralympics meaning there’s a more equal playing field, but, in the context of this national anthem-obsessed blog, it means only one thing: that people got to hear 17 anthems for the first time this year!

Many of those anthems I’ve written about on here or in my book. They range from greats like Algeria’s (the only anthem to mention machine guns) to the controversial like Iraq’s, the much loved like Malaysia’s, to the plain naughty like Mexico’s (the only anthem written out of lust).

But there were a few that I haven’t written about, of which one sticks out: Trinidad and Tobago’s.

What’s interesting about Forged From the Love of Liberty that makes it worth choosing? Musically? Nothing. And lyrically? Nothing either!

But there are two reasons it’s interesting. Firstly, it was originally written as the anthem of the West Indies Federation, which lasted from 1958 to 1962, and was an attempt to almost create one country in the Caribbean. Its author Patrick Castagne made his song vague enough to appeal to everyone, with lines about all the islands “side by side…our hearts joined across the sea.” But when the federation collapsed he didn’t decide to just let it disappear to history, he tweaked it to make it work for Trinidad and Tobago instead. He was somehow awarded $5,000 for those three minutes of work.

It’s the only anthem I know of that’s been rewritten in that way (Russia’s used to the be the anthem of the Soviet Union, but I think this is more dramatic).

The second thing that’s interesting is Patrick himself. Patrick wasn’t just an anthem writer. He also wrote calypsos, including this great tune, Ice Man for someone called Lord Melody.

I wonder if Akeem Stewart – the Trinidadian Paralympian who won gold in the javelin at the Paralympics and silver in the discus – would have preferred to have heard some calypso on the podium instead of his anthem. If you know him, please ask.

Bring the noise! All the world’s national anthems played at once

If your neighbours deserve a rude awakening, or you live with your parents and just fancy annoying them, I highly recommend you play this at 2am tonight.

The website nationalanthems.me has for some reason created a track featuring almost all the world’s anthems played at once.

It starts with Uruguay’s, and you can definitely make out Algeria’s bloody Kassaman when its high-pitched trumpets come in at 28 seconds, but the rest’s just a mess, the sound of everyone’s anthems being obliterated by everyone else’s. It’s definitely one for anyone who hates nationalism.

Worryingly, I know a lot of bands who’d give their right arm to make something as noisy and obnoxious as this!

National anthems at the Olympics… in numbers!

  • 54: anthems played at the Games, one more than at Beijing
  • 46: number of times The Star-Spangled Banner was played, eight more than any other
  • 4: number of times it was played for Michael Phelps
  • 13: anthems played that weren’t at Beijing, including Algeria’s slightly unusual effort
  • 13: anthems lost since Beijing, including, sadly, Mongolia’s
  • 8/1: odds you could get on the wrong anthem being played at a medal ceremony
  • £0: money you’d have won on that bet
  • 1: anthem complaint
  • 210: seconds that the London Philharmonic Orchestra cut out of the world’s best anthem, Uruguay’s, to make sure it met Olympic rules on length
  • 210,000: number of newspaper articles published pointing out that Uruguay’s anthem had been cut
  • 0: number of times Uruguay’s anthem was actually played
  • 1: number of times IOC president Jacques Rogge shoehorned a reference to God Save the Queen into his closing speech (“These were happy and glorious games”)
  • 80,000: number of people in the Olympic stadium who didn’t get the reference
  • 1: Li-Cheng Tseng (pictured above), a Taiwanese Taekwondoist, who provided easily my favourite anthem moment of the Games.
    She was favourite to win her class, and ended up third behind Britain’s Jade Jones, but I’ve never seen someone so happy to be standing on a podium collecting a bronze. She stood and listened to God Save the Queen like it was her own. And she’s still smiling now!

If you can think of any others please let me know