It is upon us, the quadrennial orgy of athletics and human interest that holds the world’s attention for two weeks. While many will complain about the tear-jerking fluff piece on the modern pentathlete from Liberia who overcame bulimia, civil war and bunions to earn a place on the Olympic squad of his adopted homeland of Luxembourg, I’m a sucker for this stuff. Once every four years, I care about who the fastest man in the world is, and whether the 14-year-old girl from Oklahoma can stick the landing, and how Michael Phelps (prepare to hear that name nine million times over the next 15 days) might really win eight gold medals. I care about team handball and women’s quadruple sculls and volleyball and archery (though I really think those last two events should be combined into a single competition). I like to watch people whose entire lives have built up to an event that might last just ten or twenty seconds, wondering if I could keep from cracking under such immense weight, and marveling when the strongest among them deliver their best performances on the biggest stage. I love that someone I’ve never heard of today is going to be a household name before September comes.
And so here are ten songs in honor of the Games of the 29th Olympiad.
1. Red Rockers – China
2. U2 – Silver and Gold
3. Decemberists – The Sporting Life
4. Velvet Underground – Run Run Run
5. Van Halen – Jump
6. Van Morrison – Carrying a Torch
7. The Pixies – Bird Dream of the Olympus Mons
8. R.E.M. – Nightswimming
9. Bob Geldof – This is the World Calling
10. The Heartbreakers – Chinese Rocks