Heading into the Olympics, there was a lot of discussion over what would stand out as a theme of these Games. Would it be the relative austerity and practicality of London as compared to the ridiculous spending of Beijing? Would it be the explosion of social media services such as Twitter and Facebook, which are far more prominent and widespread now than they were in 2008? Would it be the home team's quest for gold? All of those stories have had their moments in the sun, but an interesting, initially more off-the-radar one that's popped up everywhere has been the music.
[Slideshow: London Olympics in a blur]
Music has been almost an omnipresent factor at these Games, from debates over the volume in the track and field stadium to Paul McCartney popping up everywhere (including at the Opening Ceremonies, where his anthemic version of "Hey Jude" was one of the highlights) to Greek composer Vangelis' "Chariots of Fire" theme being played at every medal ceremony. It's not just the spectators and organizers involved, either, as athletes are listening to lots of music as well, and that could have more of an effect on performance than you might think:
Athletic success comes from training the mind as well as training the body. And be it current affairs or top-40 tunes, iPods can be an important part of an athlete's training or pre-race routine, according to sports psychologist Penny Werthner.
"Most of us spend too much time thinking, thinking, thinking about various things and that's taxing," Werthner said in a phone interview from Florida, where she was working with Canada's paddling team.
"Athletes can use music in two ways, one to use as a recovery piece, so they're dialling down their brainwaves so they're thinking less, and they can use music to pump them up and get them ready to compete."
Werthner works with Canadian athletes using neuro and biofeedback — measuring everything from brainwaves, to heart function, breathing, muscle activity, and skin temperature — to determine what controls stress levels. The key, she said, is finding out what works for each athlete.
What's also notable is that the Games' love affair with music has been reciprocated by plenty of artists. McCartney's attendance at lots of venues is just one example along those lines, but even those continents away are tuning in. For example, Justin Bieber's tweeted his support to Canadian gymnast Dominique Pegg and Rosie MacLellan, who earned gold in trampoline (and also picked up some Twitter love from Samuel L. Jackson). There was plenty of stellar music at the Opening Ceremonies, too, including Rowan Atkinson playing the synthesizer during the "Chariots Of Fire" theme and The Arctic Monkeys, Dizzee Rascal and Emeli Sandé performing live. It may not have quite the on-field impact of some other elements of the Olympics, but music's been everywhere in London, and the athletes, fans and organizers of these Games are getting by with a little help from their musical friends.
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