The Olympics are about a lot more than gold medals, figure skaters, bong-smoking swimmers, and crushing human rights (I'm looking at you, Beijing).
More than anything, it's about ceremony. And, like a lifeless family sitcom, that means theme songs. Over the years, the Olympics have provided us with some of the most sappy, heart-wringing anthems you'll ever hear short of a graduation ceremony (and to be fair, a few pretty good ones).
Here's a retrospective of some of the worst offenders and a few of the best.
Bad: Celine Dion, "Power of the Dream," 1996 Summer Olympics
There's more cheese stuffed into this song than an entire mile of Domino's Stuffed Cheesy Bread. It's such a constipation of cheese it will keep your bowels backed up for weeks. Why would this inspire any Olympic athlete to be better at badminton or water polo? Furthermore, why is following your dreams a good idea? My dreams are usually about escaping prison or having to wrestle bears. Last I checked, those weren't Olympic sports.
There is a drug in cheese called tyramine that imitates dopamine. It won't get you high, but does react with the brain parts that control REM. So when you eat mounds of cheddar before bed, you're more likely to have vivid nightmares. Cheesy music + dreams = nightmarish songs. I think there's a connection here.
Good: Björk, "Oceania," 2004 Summer Olympics
After some Googling, I learned this pretty little song is about evolution from the perspective of the ocean. Um, oK. Congrats to the Olympics Song Chooser People (that's their official name, right?) for attempting something avant-garde and experimental, but what the fuck does this song have to do with the Olympics? Here, let's play a game - which of these lyrics are NOT in the song?
A) Every pearl is a lynx is a girl B) Sweet like harmony made into flesh C) Win! Win! Win! Get a medal! For your country! D) Your sweat is salty / I am why
Rather than ask Björk for an answer, why not ask her about her TV?
Bad: Flipsyde, "Someday" 2006 Winter Olympics
This was a rather transparent attempt by NBC to get the younger generation to pay attention to the Olympics because it's sort of hip hop and kids sort of like hip-hop. I can't imagine why this didn't work. I know whenever I listen to Waka Flocka Flame, I get an uncontrollable urge to watch curling and bobsleigh qualifiers.
Even better, Flipsyde's single includes lyrics about how sipping Jim Beam makes you uncool and someday they're "gonna dance with those lions." You can decide for yourself which music video is worse: the one with Olympic athletes tripping over themselves and picking themselves back up or the one about lottery tickets that grant you wishes. But ask yourself, if you were a street alcoholic, would you really wish for a job as an EMT?
Be honest -- you'd wish for a mountain of blow and some stripper twins just like everyone else.
Good: Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballé, "Barcelona" 1992 Summer Olympics
Before Muse ripped off Queen for their Olympic song, there was "Barcelona." Mercury could have easily played any number of Queen songs for the Olympics, but he decided to write a new one with operatic soprano Montserrat Caballé. It's a rare combination of pop and opera and it's actually quite beautiful. It doesn't really sound much like Queen, but it does have that surge of inspiration in it that most Olympic songs pine for, without making your ears bleed. It was also aired after Mercury's death in '91, so it's kind of sad as well. If that's not inspirational, I don't know what is.
Bad: Dionne Bromfield and Tinchy Stryder, "Spinnin' for 2012" 2012 Summer Olympics
Please tell me this song was chosen as a joke. I thought this was an ad for Vegas at first, but it turns out it's an ad for Mini Cooper. What exactly does this say about London? You're as vapid as the Black-Eyed Peas and as irritating as Macy Gray? That explains why all the touristy shots of The London Eye and The London Bridge overlook the rat turds, rude jerk-offs and rampant crime.
Good: Kokia "Yume ga Chikara," 2004 Summer Olympics
I have no idea what she's saying (and I'm too lazy to Google it) but this song fills me with a Disney-like hope that everything will work out in the end. All I need now is a princess to rescue from some evil stepmother. The song can be summed up in the words of YouTube commenter chencong7636: "Great voice Kokia have."
Bad: Nikki Webster, "We'll Be One 2000 Summer Olympics"
Little Nikki was 13 when she performed this at the 2000 Summer Olympic Game's Closing Ceremony. That explains why it sounds like something straight out of a Lifetime movie where a grouchy old curmudgeon lives alone, hides his disfigured face from the rest of town, until an orphan girl comes along and sings this song for him. And then, the old man learns how to be nice again! Everyone smiles! Everyone holds hands! Fade to black, roll credits.