An Olympic ode in ancient Greek written by Jesus classics professor Dr Armand D’Angour was read out loud by London Mayor Boris Johnson at the Opening Gala for the International Olympic Committee last Monday.
Performed to the Olympic committee, which included royal members such as Prince Albert of Monaco and Princess Anne, Johnson’s reading recieved enthusiastic applause and cheering.
The ode, inspired by the Olympics, was commissioned by the London mayor and has been engraved in Greek and in English on a Bronze plaque placed within the Olympic Park.
Dr D’Angour explains that “Writing an Ode for the Games revives a musical and poetic tradition from ancient Greece, where Odes were commissioned to celebrate athletic winners at the Games.”
Written in the style of Pindar, a 5th Century BC poet from Ancient Greece, Dr D’Angour’s ode remains faithful to ancient style and form whilst reaching out to a modern audience.
The English version of the ode, written in six stanzas of rhyming couplets contains references to Usain Bolt (“the lightning bolt around the track”), the chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Lord Coe (‘Join London’s Mayor and co within’), as well as diver Tom Daley (‘as medallists are daily crowned’).
Dr D’Angour also makes a playful pun on Boris Johnson’s name in Greek “Barus,” which means ‘weighty’ both in the physical sense and in the sense of a man of authority.
“Of course the puns may make people groan, but Pindar’s audiences may have done so too,” commented the Dr D’Angour.
“Boris certainly did it justice [when reading it to Olympic dignitaries], he brought it off with typical brio and panache, and even a bit of dramatic action when the Greek says ‘(watch) the archer draw his bowstring tight’!” added the doctor.
About the writing process Dr D’Angour said “It was terrific fun writing the ode, getting the Greek and the metre right, and working out how to make it effective as a performance vehicle for the Mayor.”
Dr D’Angour was previously commissioned to write a Pindaric Ode to Athens which was recited at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004.
First year classicist, Lydia Stephens enjoyed the puns, commetnting, “It’s very clever, Dr D’Angour did a great job.”
Ronan Magee a second year classicist added, “I think it’s brilliant, Dr D’Angour cooked up a fabulous Ode with lots of great jests. Let’s just hope that Adidas and LOCOG don’t object too much to the penultimate line’s reference to νÎ¯κη (Nike)!”