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The story behind the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic Games theme song

Caroline Szwed

Each year, CBC Music in association with MusiCounts — the charity of the Juno Awards — launches a contest to engage music classes across the country with Canadian music. It’s called the Canadian Music Class Challenge. You can sign up for the 2017 Challenge now.

Since 1998, CBC has created an Olympic song — originally composed by Marc Cholette — reflecting the locations of the Games through the sounds of its host cities.

And every two years, CBC Olympics commissions a song that will strike a balance between nostalgia for Games past, while making new connections to Games future. The 2016 Rio Olympic Games song, for example, incorporated drums and samba to tie into the musical traditions of Brazil.

The 2018 Olympic Games will be held in PyeongChang, South Korea. This time, the theme song was inspired by Korean folk song "Arirang," a popular Korean folk melody and unofficial anthem for the country. Tom Westin, executive creative director at Grayson Matthews, wrote the opening, and several in-house composers wrote the music for the theme.

Westin said via email that the theme song had to evolve the more dulcet and serene opening of "Arirang" to the tension and drama of the Olympics, which he says was the most challenging thing to do in the piece.

In November 2016, with the help of his team at Grayson, Westin created the PyeongChang Olympics theme song — a song he describes as "an eclectic mix of instruments, partially to emphasize the diversity and eclecticism of the participating nations, but also because it lends the epic feel that the project required. Everything from more traditional Korean instruments such as the gayageum (a distinctive plucked 12 string instrument) to contemporary synth work, alongside instrumentation more typically associated with the Olympic music genre such as strings, voice and brass."

The CBC Olympics theme song has another purpose this year, too: in association with MusiCounts, CBC Music has launched a contest to engage music classes across the country with Canadian music, and one of the songs to learn on the list is CBC's official Olympic theme song. Find out more about the 2017 Canadian Music Class Challenge here.


More to explore:

Be part of our Winter Olympics broadcast by learning this theme song

Sign up now for the 2017 Canadian Music Class Challenge

Here are the songs for the Canadian Music Class Challenge 2017