Philip Barker

The traditional Korean folk song Arirang was on everyone's lips during the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang last month and music will also have a big role at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast in April. 

Mascot Borobi danced to his own tune outside Buckingham Palace on the day the Queen's Baton began its journey to Australia back in March 2017. 

Singer Cody Simpson performed I Still Call Australia Home, a song with resonance for many Australians, particularly those living overseas. 

It was also part of the Opening Ceremony the last time the Games were held in Queensland back in 1982. The participants wore the traditional costumes of their original lands as they represented the many communities who had subsequently made Australia their home.

At those 1982 Games in Brisbane, a special song was commissioned by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

Written by Mike Brady, it was entitled You're Here to Win and has set the tone for similar sports anthems.

"Now you represent your country," the song says.

"So let the Games begin. 'Cause when you get right down to it, you've also come to win".

In a decision they would probably prefer was forgotten, organisers also chose Rolf Harris to perform at the Opening Ceremony. Dressed in a blue safari suit, the now-disgraced star sang Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport with modified lyrics.

"Let me welcome you to the Games friends, welcome you to the Games," he sang. "I don't know all of your names friends, but let me welcome you to the Games".

At recent Games, emphasis has been on modern music but it was much more formal in the early days. Pipe bands accompanied the teams into the stadium at the inaugural British Empire Games in 1930.

The military flavour continued for the next 40 years and at the 1954 Games in Vancouver there was even a military tattoo staged as an extension of the Opening Ceremony with appropriate music.

The 1958 Commonwealth Games were held in Wales, known as "The Land of Song".

Gold Coast 2018 mascot Borobi was in dancing mood at the start of the Queen's Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace ©Getty Images
Gold Coast 2018 mascot Borobi was in dancing mood at the start of the Queen's Baton Relay at Buckingham Palace ©Getty Images

The Organising Committee 60 years ago were determined to use that to good effect.

"Although it is recognised that the Opening Ceremony itself needs no improvement, the Ceremonial Committee decided that some event typical of Wales should be presented," organisers said.

"It was considered most appropriate that a typical Welsh choir of 500 voices should perform."

They were to be accompanied by the Band of the Welsh Guards.

The choir performed seven songs including the traditional Welsh melodies Men of Harlech, The Ash Grove, The Rising of the Lark and All Through the Night.

It was conducted by John Morgan Nicholas, one-time organist of the Chapel Royal Windsor and a noted composer and performer of church music.

He had also composed Cydganed Pawb, a song for the boys of Gordonstoun School when they were evacuated to Llandinam in mid-Wales during the war. It was no coincidence that those Games were opened by Prince Philip, himself an old boy of Gordonstoun.

The whole performance was topped off with a display of counter-marching by the Welsh Guards and a rendition of Land of My Fathers, used to this day as the Welsh victory anthem at the Commonwealth Games.

It was all a far cry from the Manic Street Preachers...

The swinging sixties might as well have not happened for all the impact they made on the organisers of the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games. They took a similar approach to their counterparts in Cardiff. 

Organisers suggested that "the music and dances of Scotland whetted the audience's anticipation of the formal ceremony to follow".

It was not until the 1974 Games in Christchurch, New Zealand that things started to change.

A contest to find an official song was won by Steve Allen who wrote the music. The song was called Join Together. He later recalled that "as with all good songs it fell into place".

It was marketed as "the official Commonwealth Games pop song" and reached number two in the New Zealand Pop-O-Meter top 20.

Allen and a massed choir performed the song at the Opening Ceremony in February 1974.

"Join together, let laughter fill the air," they sang. "It's time for every race and creed to throw away every care."

For the 1978 Games in Edmonton, a steel band called the Groovers recorded a catchy number appropriately called Commonwealth Tempo

It opened the BBC's television coverage and the group even performed it at the Closing Ceremony.

Delta Goodrem performs during the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images
Delta Goodrem performs during the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games ©Getty Images

The Games did not return to Canada until 1994 when the arrival of the Queen's Baton in Victoria was greeted with Let Your Spirit Take Flight. Organisers described the words of the song as "jubilant lyrics".

By this time the Games had also returned to the Scottish capital Edinburgh. In 1986, there was a performance of Scottish dances and reels very similar to that which had taken place in 1970.

The Opening Ceremony was produced by the BBC which chose music composed by BA Robertson. For its title, it had the Gaelic welcome Ceud Mile Failte, translated as "a hundred thousand welcomes".

The BBC also commissioned three songs which were performed during the ceremony itself. The first, Power from Within, by Phil Fearon and Justin Timbimuttu, was sung as the ceremony began with what the organisers described as "a veritable torrent of children". 

They began to run along Edinburgh's Royal Mile in "a scene of joy and excitement and enormous energy".

A thousand-strong children's choir later sang Smile With Us as others formed the dove of peace in the centre of the Meadowbank Stadium.

Sadly the sun did not often appear during a Games which were blighted by political boycott and financial uncertainty.

In Auckland four years later, Howard Morrison performed Tukua Ahau or This Is The Moment.

At the Closing Ceremony, Betty-Anne Monga's We Can Work Wonders was followed by the traditional New Zealand song of farewell, Now is the Hour, led by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Dame Kiri was also responsible for one of the more bizarre moments of the Opening Ceremony in 2006 in Melbourne. She began a chorus of Happy Birthday to You to mark The Queen's 80th. This segued into a rather awkward rendition of "God Save the Queen".

Other performances in Melbourne were by Australian artists. These included Delta Goodrem who sang the official theme song of the Games Together We are One. This had been co-authored by Bryan McFadden, once a member of the boy band Westlife.

By this time, the pop song was de rigueur. Kuala Lumpur had Standing In The Eyes of the Word, one of a collection of songs to mark the 1998 Games in the Malaysian capital.

In 2002, the first musical performance of the Manchester Games was unexpected. Sir Steve Redgrave, five-time Olympic champion and holder of three Commonwealth Games gold medals, beat a giant Malaysian drum to signal the start of the music.

The musical contrast of the evening was emphasised when the royal salute to the Queen was immediately followed by S Club 7's Don’t Stop Movin'.

It was inevitable that Bollywood tunes would take centre stage in 2010 in Delhi.

 AR Rahman brought Bollywood songs to Delhi 2010 ©Getty Images
AR Rahman brought Bollywood songs to Delhi 2010 ©Getty Images

Singer composer AR Rahman wrote and performed Swagatham, a song in Hindi dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi.

He also sang Jiho Utho Bado Jeeto, a rock style anthem with the refrain "Let's Go".

His set was complete with the hit song Jai Ho, used in the film Slumdog Millionaire.

The music of "universal love" was played on five separate stages with more than a thousand dancers supporting the performance.

At the handover ceremony, a piper played the traditional Scottish tune Black Bear as the Games prepared for a return to Scotland.

In Glasgow in 2014, Amy Macdonald sang Rhythm of My Heart. Her performance began in the heart of the city's George Square where she was joined by hundreds of Glaswegians who passed the song from one to another, almost as if they were in a relay.

"There's no fiction here, everyone is playing themselves," said organisers at the time. The sequence was of course pre-filmed and as the song came to its grand finale at the Opening Ceremony, Macdonald appeared live in Celtic Park where she sang before introducing Rod Stewart.

Nicola Benedetti played Loch Lomond as the ceremonial Commonwealth Games flag was trooped into Celtic Park for the opening of the Games.

There was one rather more unexpected hit at Glasgow 2014. Two dancers from the Scottish ballet performed a pas de deux to the music of I'm Gonna Be (500 miles) by The Proclaimers.

It became one of the hits of the Games, not least because it was regularly played during the athletics at Hampden Park. There it received the ultimate endorsement from Usain Bolt who began dancing to it as he waited to receive the baton in the 4x100 metres relay.

The Closing Ceremony also had a musical theme. Instead of entering the stadium in traditional fashion, the athletes emerged from tents pitched on the Hampden Park pitch. This was a tribute to the T in the Park music festival held in Scotland. 

Lulu began the musical performance. The Gold Coast's own handover then featured Jessica Mauboy who sang two songs. Sea of Flags anticipated the coming together of nations and regions in the Gold Coast before the appearance of Sally Pearson to announce the sporting programme. 

Then came the re-appearance of Mauboy to sing I Believe - Anything is Possible. She was not the last Australian to make her mark on the night.

Amy Macdonald performs alongside a piper at the Glasgow 2014 Opening Ceremony ©Getty Images
Amy Macdonald performs alongside a piper at the Glasgow 2014 Opening Ceremony ©Getty Images

Glasgow 2014 organisers had decided that Kylie Minogue would provide the perfect link with the next host city in Australia. As Kylie prepared for a costume change, up stepped Australian steeplechaser Genevieve La Caze to join in with the dancing. She was soon hustled away by security.

The Scottish bagpipes provided a more conventional farewell.

So now the attention turns to 2018. That there will be plenty of music at the Gold Coast is a given. The dress rehearsals at Carrara Stadium on March 31 and April 2 will give a specially invited audience some idea of what to expect.

The Gold Coast festival which runs parallel to the Games begins with a performance by Yothu Yindi, an aboriginal group which famously sang at the Closing Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

It will also feature Mauboy, the star of the handover in 2014, and a bearer of the Queen's Baton earlier in the month. 

Amy Shark, real name Amy Billings, the recipient of an arts grant from the Gold Coast, is also expected to take part and she is rumoured to have a role in the Opening Ceremony itself. Organisers are of course remaining tight-lipped about the details.

In 2006, the last Commonwealth Games to be held in Australia had a remarkable musical finale which included a thousand lookalikes for one leading Australian performer. Today We’ve Made the Most of Melbourne was sung by Dame Edna Everage.