You’ve heard it every day during the 2016 Rio Olympics and if you’ve watched NBC’s Olympic coverage in the past, you’ve heard it constantly in 1996, 2000. 2002, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012 and 2014. It’s the familiar trumpets that begin the theme and continues for a while before Bob Costas starts telling us what’s on the evening’s show.
You know it.
Because this has been played so many times over the years, people have come to believe that it’s one song. And movie composer John Williams who has conducted the themes to the Star Wars movies, Raiders of the Lost Ark, NBC Nightly News, Sunday Night Football, and so much more has gotten the credit for the entire NBC Olympics theme. Well, did you know it’s actually a mashup of two compositions?
The first is Bugler’s Dream, the familiar bugler’s riff. It’s been part of Olympic coverage not just on NBC, but on ABC dating back to 1968 when the Winter and Summer Olympics were held in the same year. And ABC used it in Grenbole and Mexico City (1968), Munich (1972), Innsbruck and Montreal (1976), Lake Placid (1980), Sarajevo and Los Angeles (1984) and lastly in Calgary (1988). It was composed by Leo Arnaud who like Williams, was a film composer.
When NBC began its Olympic journey in Seoul, South Korea in 1988, it could not use Bugler’s Dream as it did not have the rights and used another theme (“Olympic Spirit” also written by John Williams), but starting in 1992 in Barcelona, purchased it from ABC and it’s been on the Peacock ever since. Here’s Bugler’s Dream in its entirety.
Now the second part is the John Williams composition Olympic Fanfare which was written specifically for the 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles. It was first heard to open the Games at the Opening Ceremony. Here’s ABC’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony with the late Jim McKay and the late Peter Jennings. You can hear Bugler’s Dream at 2:40 of the video and then John Williams’ Olympic Fanfare at 4:23.
And here is the Olympic Fanfare in its entirety:
NBC likes both themes so much that it mashed them together. Bugler’s Dream goes for 45 seconds before transitioning into John Williams’ Olympic Fanfare and that continues as Bob Costas introduces us what’s on the primetime slate.
So as you watch the Olympics for the final time this year, you’ll have a little piece of trivia you can throw at your friends knowing that NBC Olympics theme is actually a mashup.