The music, written and recorded by Greek composer Vangelis, was the theme tune to the 1981 film of the same name and was also featured during the 2012 London Olympics opening ceremony, where it was performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and featured a comic appearance by actor Rowan Atkinson in character as Mr Bean. It was also used for medal ceremonies at the London Games.
The work is part of a Top 20 list voted for by Classic FM listeners, with Puccini’s Nessun Dorma in second place – used by the BBC as the theme music to its coverage of the Italia 90 World Cup – and Rugby World Cup theme song World In Union (written by Charlie Skarbek and featuring Gustav Holst lyrics) in third place.
According to Classic FM, football is the sport most linked to classical music, with eight of the top 20 songs in their list associated with the game.
You’ll Never Walk Alone, which has become an anthem for Liverpool supporters since the 1960s, is in sixth position. It is originally from the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, though was covered by Gerry and the Pacemakers in 1963.
Handel’s choral work Zadok The Priest (which inspired the Champions League theme music) comes in seventh position and has been revealed as a favourite of former England footballer Wayne Rooney.
Rooney said: “Playing in and winning a Champions League final was something I dreamed of as a kid and a big part of why I left my boyhood club.
“My first game for United was in the Champions League at Old Trafford … but nothing can beat winning the final in Moscow against one of our biggest rivals at the time, Chelsea. Every time I hear that music, the memories come flooding back.”
Sir Charles Hubert Parry’s Jerusalem, often heard at England cricket and rugby internationals, is ninth on the top 20 list.
World In Union, which also features music taken from Holst’s The Planets also has special resonance for Sir Clive Woodward. Sir Clive, who guided England to World Cup glory in 2003, told Classic FM: “My first memories of this are from the Rugby World Cup in South Africa in 1995, which was a fantastic tournament, and it brings back great memories when I hear it now.”
Classic FM presenter Karthi Gnanasegaram said: “So much of the world’s favourite classical music has become synonymous with the biggest sporting moments and events … when you hear the music again, you’re instantly transported back to the terraces or the pitch.”