Mayor to read out Oxford University classicist's Olympic Ode

An Olympic Ode in ancient Greek composed by an Oxford University academic for the London 2012 Olympics will be declaimed by London Mayor Boris Johnson on Monday 23 July.

The full text of the Ode, written by Dr Armand D'Angour of Oxford University's Classics Faculty and due to be engraved in Greek and English on a bronze plaque in the Olympic Park, will be read aloud in both languages at the Opening Gala for the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

This Ode was written at the instigation of Mayor Boris Johnson, who took his degree in Classics at Balliol College Oxford.

Dr D'Angour, who wrote the Ode in the style of the poet Pindar, said: 'I hope that these Odes will help to raise the profile of the Classics, which is an endlessly fascinating and inspiring subject. It will certainly be fun to hear the Ode read by the Mayor in his inimitable style, and I hope people will enjoy seeing the plaque when visiting the area in years to come.

'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. Pindar was the greatest poet of his time, and sponsors paid a great deal of money for athletic victors to be honoured with an Ode by him'.

He added: '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!'

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: 'I am delighted to have the opportunity to declaim Dr D'Angour’s glorious Olympic Ode at the Opening Gala, a work that breathes new life into the ancient custom of celebrating the greatness of the Games through poetry.

'I have no doubt that the members of the International Olympic Committee are fully versed in ancient Greek, but to ensure the elaborate puns can be fully appreciated I shall have the pleasure of vocalising the Ode twice, once in Greek and then again in English. I shall try to resist the temptation to regale the attendees a further time in Latin, though I cannot make any promises.'

Dr D'Angour has written 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 the chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games Lord 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.

The Ode will be read out by the Mayor in both Greek and English, as the introductory item of the IOC's Opening Gala in the Royal Opera House. The permanent plaque in the Olympic Park, funded privately by supporters and friends of the Classics, will be unveiled at a later date by Mayor Johnson and the Lord Mayor of London, David Wootton.

Dr D'Angour was trained as a cellist at the Royal College of Music before reading Classics at Oxford. Now a Classics fellow at Jesus College, he previously composed the ancient Greek Ode for the Athens Olympics in 2004 on commission from Dame Mary Glen-Haig, a senior member of the IOC.