As the Olympics reclaim the world’s sports spotlight in Sochi, Russia, Chart Beat looks back at how the Games have impacted Billboard’s charts.
(Sticking only to music directly related to the worldwide competition, we’ll leave out any material by the band known as the Olympics; songs or albums with the word “gold” in their titles; and “What Would Brian Boitano Do?” by Stan, Kyle and Cartman from “South Park.”)
Serving as the soundtrack to Mary Lou Retton’s gold medal gymnastics glory, “The Official Music of the XXXIIIrd Olympiad Los Angeles 1984” became the first Olympic-themed album to enter the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 92. Two tracks from the set reached the Billboard Hot 100: “Chance for Heaven” by Christopher Cross (No. 76) and “Reach Out” by Giorgio Moroder (No. 81). The collection also sports the famed “Bugler’s Dream” Olympic theme music (composed in 1958 by Leo Arnaud), performed by Felix Slatkin.
Canadian David Foster provided the theme to the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, as the piano-based instrumental “Winter Games” reached No. 85 on the Hot 100 in March. Later that year, “1988 Summer Olympics Album/One Moment in Time” peaked at No. 31 on the Billboard 200. The soundtrack to the Games in Seoul, Korea, is, appropriately, soulful: the release features Whitney Houston’s No. 5 Hot 100 hit “One Moment in Time” (the ballad won the gold medal on the Adult Contemporary chart) and the Four Tops’ “Indestructible” (No. 35, Hot 100), as well as Eric Carmen’s “Reason to Try” (No. 87, Hot 100).
While the USA’s “Dream Team,” led by Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan, enjoyed a slam-dunk gold medal in men’s basketball, three songs featured on “Barcelona Gold” executed fast breaks on the Hot 100: Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground” (No. 1), En Vogue’s “Free Your Mind” (No. 8) and INXS’ “Not Enough Time” (No. 28). The album, which peaked at No. 32 on the Billboard 200, also includes the joyous “Barcelona” by Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe and “Friends for Life (Amigos Para Siempre)” by Jose Carreras and Sarah Brightman.
Nancy Kerrigan’s silver medal triumph in women’s figure skating highlighted the Winter Games in Lillehammer, Norway. Though no accompanying musical album glided onto Billboard’s charts, “1994 Winter Olympic Highlights” and “1994 Winter Olympic Figure Skating Highlights” each peaked at No. 2 on the (since discontinued) Recreational Sports DVD sales chart.
“Rhythm of the Games – 1996 Olympic Games Album,” which commemorated the Summer Games in Atlanta, yielded the No. 5 Adult Contemporary and No. 42 Hot 100 anthem “Reach” by Gloria Estefan. The album features fellow inspirational tracks in “Champions Theme” by Kenny G, “You’re a Winner” by Tony Rich and Boyz II Men’s version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” The same year, Boston Pops’ “Summon the Heroes,” sporting multiple Olympic instrumentals composed by John Williams, rose to No. 62 on the Billboard 200.
As in 1994, the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan, produced a pair of charting titles on the Recreational Sports DVD survey, where “1998 Olympic Winter Games Figure Skating Competition” and “1998 Olympic Winter Games Overall Highlights” reached Nos. 8 and 17, respectively.
After no releases associated with the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia, reached Billboard’s charts, “2002 Olympic Winter Games,” from the XIX Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, climbed to No. 1 on the Recreational Sports DVD chart and John Williams’ “American Journey” peaked at No. 98 on the Billboard 200. At the opening ceremonies, LeAnn Rimes performed the official song of the 2002 Games, “Light the Fire Within,” previously released on her 2001 album “I Need You.”
After the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad took place in Athens, Greece, the retrospective “The Olympics Series: Golden Moments 1920-2002” peaked at No. 1 on the Recreational Sports DVD list in September 2004. (In competition, Carly Patterson became the second American woman, following Mary Lou Retton, to win the women’s all-around gold medal in gymnastics; in 2010, Patterson released an album, “Back to the Beginning.” When she visited Billboard’s New York offices that year, she wowed many admirers who marveled at her medal in person.)
The AT&T-sponsored “Team USA Soundtrack” was released on Aug. 8, 2008, the same date that the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China, began. On the Aug. 30, Hot 100, five tracks from the album debuted: Taylor Swift’s “Change” (No. 10), Chris Brown’s “Dreamer” (No. 16), Goo Goo Dolls’ “Real” (No. 92), Nelly’s “Warrior” (No. 94) and Colbie Caillat’s “Something Special” (No. 98). The “Beijing 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony” subsequently reigned on the Recreational Sports DVD chart.
As part of the festive opening ceremonies in Vancouver, Sarah McLachlan performed “Ordinary Miracle,” a No. 18 Adult Contemporary hit in 2007. Fellow chart veterans of Canadian heritage Bryan Adams, Nelly Furtado and k.d.lang also performed, and the compilation “Sounds of Vancouver 2010: Opening Ceremony Commemorative Album” was released the same day. Plus, Rascal Flatts’ “Unstoppable,” which went on to reach No. 7 on Hot Country Songs, was featured in NBC promos. “You find your faith has been lost and shaken / Here’s your chance, and it’s worth taking,” the group’s Gary LeVox sang over images of the world’s premier athletes pursuing their dreams. “Get on your knees and dig down deep / You can do what you think is impossible.”
The major recipient of chart success thanks to the 2012 London Olympics (for which British/Irish boy band the Wanted was among those carrying the Torch, above)? Phillip Phillips, whose breakthrough single “Home” accompanied NBC’s coverage of the U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the Games that year. As the squad won multiple gold medals, drawing national admiration, Phillips kept winning over fans, too, as the song blasted 84-9 on the Hot 100 fueled heavily by the tie-in. The synch helped the song take hold going forward, with it eventually peaking at No. 6. How fitting that Phillips triumphed chart-wise via the Olympics: he had won another competition, “American Idol,” just weeks earlier.