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Which country's national anthem is played at the closing ceremony of all Olympic Games?

The Olympic opening and closing ceremonies are a celebration of inclusivity with every country taking center stage but tradition dictates the final anthem.

Naomi Osaka of Japan holds the Olympic torch after lighting the cauldron at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics opening ceremony, July 23, 2021.
Kai PfaffenbachREUTERS

The opening and closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games are steeped in tradition and have remained largely unchanged since the first modern Olympiad held in Greece in 1896. The structure and content of the stage-setting opening ceremony and the closing celebration are governed by the Olympic Charter and therefore the host nation has little say in proceedings beyond the opportunity to showcase their culture and national pride within the confines of the opening ceremony, each of which carry their own national stamp with fireworks, artistic displays, cultural references and so forth.

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Doves released

There have of course been slight tweaks down the decades, such as the opportunity for the leader of the host nation to deliver a speech at the opening ceremony, which was shelved after Berlin 1936. The host nation’s allotted dignitary is also supposed to follow a script to officially open each Games, but this has been variously, if ever-so slightly, altered by various royal scions and presidents. There were also live doves released as a symbol of peace at every Games until 1988, when a mishap involving the Olympic flame led future organizers to adopt a digital version of the avian display.

When it comes to the flags and the order of parading nations, Greece has always taken preference as the birthplace of the ancient Games and the first host of the modern Olympiad in 1896. Since the 1928 Olympics, Greece has always entered the main Games stadium first with the host nation last. This is the case with both the opening and closing ceremonies, although in the finale the flag of the host nation is raised before any other and the national anthem of that country played.

Parade of Athletes

During the Parade of Flags at the closing ceremony, the Greek standard is the first to enter the stadium and the host nation is again the last to raise its flag. Since 1958, then follows the Parade of Athletes, which was first suggested as a way to bring all nations together as one and in which all the athletes enter the stadium as one group.

At the end of the closing ceremony the flags of Greece and the flag of the next host nation are raised with their national anthems in accompaniment. The Greek national anthem, Hymn to Liberty, which became the country’s official anthem in 1865, has been performed at every closing ceremony of the modern Olympiad.

Also played at every summer and winter Games is the Olympic Hymn, also of Greek origin, composed by Spyridon Samaras with lyrics by poet Kostis Palamas. Sometimes performed at the closing ceremony, sometimes at the opening ceremony and occasionally at both, it was sung in English by the students of Fukushima Koriyama High School and Toshimagaoka Girl's High School at the opening ceremony of Tokyo 2020.


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