Bolt to star in update to ancient Greek Olympic ode

London Mayor Boris Johnson will read out an Olympic Ode in ancient Greek composed by an Oxford academic to celebrate the athletes and personalities of the London 2012 Games as part of opening ceremonies.

The ode is in the style of ancient Greek poet Pindar, whose poems celebrating the victorious Olympic competitors of the ancient world were highly prized.

Oxford classics faculty member Armand D’Angour wrote the ode at the instigation of the loquacious London mayor, who took his degree in Classics at Oxford, and includes references to athletes and personalities such as sprinter Usain Bolt and London Olympic organising committee chairman Sebastian Coe.

“Pindar was the greatest poet of his time, and sponsors paid a great deal of money for athletic victors to be honored with an Ode by him,» D’Angour said in a statement.

“I have aimed to be faithful to ancient style and form, and used alcaic metre. Of course the puns may make people groan, but Pindar’s audiences may have done so too!”

Johnson, who will read out the ode at Monday’s opening gala for the International Olympic Committee, said he was looking forward to demonstrating his command of ancient Greek before IOC and delivering a second reading in English.

“I shall try to resist the temptation to regale the attendees a further time in Latin, though I cannot make any promises,» he said.

D’Angour wrote the ode in ancient Greek with modern lyrics.

The six English stanzas are written in rhyming couplets and include references to Usain Bolt (‘the lightning bolt around the track’), to London’s Mayor (Boris’s name is punned on by barus in Greek, which means ‘weighty’), and Coe (‘Join London’s Mayor and co. within’).

There are also allusions to British athletes, including volleyball captain Ben Pipes and diver Tom Daley. Cryptically embedded in the Greek text are the names of over a dozen athletes, including Britain’s Tessa Sanderson, Paula Radcliffe, Mo Farah, and Jessica Ennis.

D’Angour previously composed the ancient Greek ode for the Athens Olympics in 2004. [Reuters]

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