We can be heroes: music and the Games

Music has been integral to London 2012, throughout the opening ceremony and all Olympic events. It also promises to play a key role in Sunday’s closing ceremony.

Notably, David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ has been played whenever Team GB win a gold, and ‘Chariots of Fire’ by Vangelis can been heard during all the medal ceremonies.

The Olympic organisers have used it to create atmosphere: 'Under Pressure' by Queen and David Bowie. And to instruct the audience: ‘Sit Down’ by James.

In an interview with Kate Kelland of Reuters, Costas Karageorghis a Chartered Psychologist explains how music plays a very important role to Olympians like Team GB gymnast Louis Smith. Dr Karageorghis said: "Music can have a genuine effect, both before and during the event."

He was discussing research published in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology which found runners run further and longer when they listen to music by artists such as Madonna, Queen and the Red Hot Chilli Peppers. The study also found that they enjoyed the run more than running without music.

Dr Karageorghis added “Music is a legal drug for athletes. It can have either a stimulative or a sedative effect, depending on its psycho-acoustic properties.

"Thinking can be an athlete's worst enemy. Music provides a good way for them to dissociate, regulate their emotions effectively and stay in the here and now.

These findings are backed up by research presented at the Society’s Annual Conference in April, which was undertaken by Dr Alexandra Lamont with Rachel Hallett, Jonathan Castro, Charlotte Fowell, Kelly Richardson and Rhian Taylor, all from Keele University.

They found listening to your own choice of music could improve your enjoyment of competitive sports and could also improve performance.

Dr Lamont said: "By playing their favourite tunes, we found that participants' exertion levels reduced and their sense of being 'in the zone' increased, when compared to listening to no music at all. The greatest effects were found for music used during training.

Throughout the Games, Kate Kelland has written about the science of sporting performance. You can read her articles on The Observatory website.

The latest sports psychology news and features, during the Olympics and Paralympics, can be found on our Going for Gold website.

Once there you can take part in our online experiment, which gives you the chance to walk the path of a judoko preparing for a judo bout.