I think it’s important to document the floor music used at major gymnastics competitions. It tells us a lot about the general cultural zeitgeist in the world, as well as what gymnasts and their coaches think the judges will or will not like.
In the lead-up to the 1962 World Championships in Prague, the pages of the Czechoslovak sports periodical Stadión were filled with articles and photos related to gymnastics, one of which told the story behind three gymnasts’ floor routines: Hana Růžičková’s, Věra Čáslavská’s, and Eva Bosáková’s. It’s an interesting article, given that the extant videos do not have sound. Plus, the article contrasts the Czechoslovak style with the Soviet style.
This last point is important because, as we look back on the history of the sport, we tend to group old routines together, categorizing them all as “balletic.” But national teams made a conscientious effort to differentiate their routines and styles.
Another factor to consider: The use of music for individual floor routines was relatively new at the time. 1958 was the first time that music for women’s floor was used at a World Championships or Olympics. As a result, countries were trying to figure out what worked and what didn’t work.
Bond, Bond, and More Bond: There was a lot of music from the group Bond during the Athens Olympics. The band’s albums Born and Shine came out in 2000 and 2002, respectively. Their music straddled the worlds of contemporary music and classical orchestral music.
The title of a 2004 article gives you an idea of how the musical group was perceived at the time: “Unbreakable Bond; They’re young. They’re sexy. And they’re turning the classical music industry on its head.” (Sarasota Herald Tribune, Nov. 26, 2004).
Movie Soundtracks: As was the case in 2000, movie soundtracks were big in 2004. Examples included Braveheart, Pirates of the Caribbean, Moulin Rouge, and Matrix Revolutions.
In Sydney, the floor music included songs from The Rock, Addams Family Values, The Mummy, and The Truman Show, among others.
A small surprise: In 1984, 1992, and 1996, several floor routines featured music associated with the host country. In 2000, that trend was not as pervasive. Of course, there were exceptions — like McIntosh’s use of “Waltzing Matilda” or Slater’s use of “I Still Call Australia Home,” which was contentious, by the way. (More on that below.)
Given that Los Angeles is the heart of American cinema, it makes sense. There were songs from movies like Night Shift, Indiana Jones, Rocky, and James Bond.
Another theme: Americana.
In addition to the emphasis on American TV and films, there were plenty of other American moments — from Szabo’s routine to “Hooked on America” to Wu’s “Stars and Stripes Forever” to Bileck’s “Rodeo” montage. (Rodeo is a ballet composed by American composer Aaron Copland.)
Just as there was a lot of flamenco music during an Olympics held in Spain, there was a fair amount of U.S. music, particularly from the American gymnasts and the Romanian gymnasts.
Another Big Trend: Songs from movie soundtracks.
The French team pulled from recent movies like The Mask and Basic Instinct. But there were songs from older movies, including Galieva’s Charlie Chaplin tribute and Marinescu’s music from the Italian film Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion.
The big trend in floor music in 1992: Flamenco, flamenco, and more flamenco.
For decades, flamenco music has been a constant during women’s floor exercise, but the trend perhaps hit its crescendo during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. (You can read a little about the politics of flamenco at the bottom of the page.)
Yello: In 2021, Billie Eilish was the big contemporary music sensation during floor routines. In 1992, it was Yello.
Throwbacks from 40ish years prior: The nostalgia machine is always alive during floor exercise, trying to target audience members and judges in their 40s and 50s and beyond. In 1992, it emerged in pieces like “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “An American in Paris Ballet.”
As far as FIG events are concerned, women’s individual floor exercise was first introduced at the 1950 World Championships, but at the time, gymnasts did not use floor music. In fact, at the 1950 FIG Congress, the delegates had to decide if gymnasts should perform to music at the 1952 Olympics, and they voted against it (eight votes to three).
It wasn’t until 1958 that music was introduced for individual floor routines, both compulsory and optional.
Below, you’ll find recordings of the music for the compulsory routines from 1958 until 1996. For some of you, the music will bring back fond memories. For others, it’ll bring back nightmares. But hopefully, you’ll find a piece you enjoy listening to.
This post throws off the chronological order of this website. I know, it bothers me, too.
Nevertheless, I feel like it’s important to document the floor music of this year’s Olympics. FX music tells us a lot about the general cultural zeitgeist in the world, as well as what is (and isn’t) allowed by the FIG.