Akron: The sounds of the Olympics

6:25 PM, Aug 10, 2012   |    comments
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AKRON - The Olympics are a spectacle to watch, but take a moment to listen.

Along with the chorus of competition, you'll hear another soundtrack of the Games.

"The Olympics is a very prominent venue that allows the arts to also be showcased along with all the athletic events," said University of Akron Professor and Interim Dean Bill Guegold.

Guegold started researching music's role in the Olympics more than three decades ago, when he found out you, at one time, you could win gold for a song.

Logistics wiped out musical contests after 1948, but the music went on in ceremony. His 1996 book, "100 Years of Olympic Music," details the changes.

"They started to expand the opening ceremony in particular, from just being an official function where we get the athletes in, we raise the flag...then we started having more cultural events in the games," he said.

Since the 1980 games in Moscow, every host city has tried not to be outdone. That continues all the way to the current London games.

"Danny Boyle did a great job of highlighting a lot of the musical periods where England has contributed to the musical history down through the years," said Guegold.

But with more than 30 song selections, Guegold says segments and transitions were too slow.

"Part of it is making it interesting enough for an international audience. It's not just the 100,000 people in the stadium. It's a billion people worldwide," he said.

Guegold says expect the closing ceremony to be all celebration.

"We'll see a lot of great British bands and musicians in the closing ceremony as well as we did the opening," he said. "There'll be a party. It will be fun. Lots of different things going on, and not as much structure as you see in the opening."

You may not always notice the Olympic soundtrack as you watch for scores, but Guegold lives for the magic the music gets golden glory. He says it happens every time a gold medal is awarded, and the national anthem begins.

"When they are there, they've gotten the gold medal and they play their national anthem, how that really brings the moment to the true climax," he said.

His own shining moment happened in 2000 in Sydney, when the International Olympics Committee presented him with the Olympic Order, its highest award.

"To be recognized for that research, was really special. Because it was not expected. It was a total surprise," said Guegold.

The only other musician to receive the Olympic Order is the famous film composer John Williams in 2003.

Guegold says he's planning to write a follow up book in a few years, covering the time period from 1996 until now, as well as adding additional depth to the first 100 years.


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