How familiar are you with your nation’s national anthem?

A national anthem is a piece of music that’s designed to create a sense of patriotism and pride for one’s nation and reminds its people of the state’s glory and rich heritage. Each government usually recognises it as the official song of the country.

If you’re from the UK, or you perhaps tuned in to watch the Birmingham 2022 opening ceremony, then chances are you will probably be familiar with the iconic song, ‘God Save the Queen’. The tune often plays in the presence of British royalty and is the national anthem you’ll hear when Team GB wins at various sporting events, such as at the Olympics.

However, as the four nations compete separately at the Commonwealth Games, each nation’s win comes with their own individual anthem. 

Whenever a team is successful in winning gold at the Games, their national anthem is played during the medal ceremony as their flag is raised.

Marfa Ekimova's win for England at the gymnastics was just one of many medal ceremonies for the Team that saw Jerusalem play out to spectators at the Arena Birmingham. When Scotland triumphs, the sound of bagpipes echoes across the stadium as O Flower of Scotland plays.

Nothing tugs at the heart strings harder than a national anthem being belted out in a packed stadium by emotional athletes and thousands of their supporters
Ian Reid, CEO of Birmingham 2022

Most national anthems have a march or a hymn-like composition and the lyrics are usually about its citizens, the beautiful landscape and diverse culture; or the fight for freedom and independence.

As Ian Reid, CEO at Birmingham 2022, said: “nothing tugs at the heart strings harder than a national anthem being belted out in a packed stadium by emotional athletes and thousands of their supporters.”

So without further ado, here are 11 things you probably didn’t know about the national anthems of the Commonwealth.

  1. Samantha Oxborough was the mezzo soprano opera singer who performed the national anthem at the Birmingham 2022 opening ceremony. She’s also volunteering as a security guard during the Games.
  2. New Zealand is one of only two countries in the world—the other being Denmark—with two official national anthems of equal status: ‘God Defend New Zealand’  and, of course, ‘God Save The Queen’.
  3. The British national anthem, ‘God Save The Queen’, was  first performed to King George II (as ‘God Save the King’) in 1745 to show support for the monarchy during the final Jacobite uprising which was an attempt by Charles Edward Stuart to take the throne for his father, James Francis Edward Stuart. 
  4. There are several other nations who have chosen the familiar tune as their national anthem, including Bermuda, Montserrat and the Turks and Caicos Islands who all hear ‘God Save The Queen’ when their nation celebrates a gold medal.
  5. The Ugandan anthem is the shortest national anthem in the world, with just eight bars of music.
  6. Cyprus is the only nation that does not own a national anthem and instead borrows the national anthems of Greece and Turkey.
  7. Before the end of apartheid in 1994, South Africa also had two, racially divded national anthems. In 1997 President Nelson Mandela then decided to blend the two songs “Die Stem” and “God Bless Africa '' together, incorporating lyrics from each.  The anthem now has five languages in it, starting with Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaan and finishing in English.
  8. Tanzania and Zambia’s national anthems have the same origin, but there is a small difference in the tune.
  9. St Helena’s anthem was written by Dave Mitchel who had never been to the country, but was inspired by postcards he’d seen whilst working on a nearby island. His friend suggested he write it - it is the only national anthem to be in a country-western style of music! 
  10. Written by a husband and wife in the 1980s, the Cook Islands’ anthem was created by former Prime Minister Sir Thomas Davis who composed the music and his wife Pa Tepaeru Terito Ariki, a tribal chief, who wrote the lyrics in Maori.
  11. The anthem of the Maldives finishes with a seven gun salute.