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The 10 best songs to use in spine-tingling sports montages

Over shots of a trickling water feature, clouds passing over a sun-kissed Centre Court and a groundsman daubing white lines on grass, Sue Barker uttered some familiar words: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

Delivering the first montage of this year's Wimbledon coverage, the presenter spent the opening 90 seconds of the very first broadcast from the All England Club reading William Shakespeare's Sonnet 18, her dramatic flow punctuated by images of a grimacing Andy Murray, a trophy-kissing Novak Djokovic and John McEnroe's infamous cry of "You cannot be serious!" from 1981.

Wimbledon just wouldn't be Wimbledon without slow-motion footage of glistening strawberries, ducking umpires and tennis stars triumphing - and failing - set to music chosen either to exhilarate the TV audience or yank at its heartstrings. Indeed, televised sport has been indulging in montages for years, whether it's Cast soundtracking England's exit from Euro 96, or Johnny Cash and Australia's Ashes whitewash in 2013/14.

Now that Wimbledon and Euro 2016 have both concluded with gut-wrenching closing montages (tennis fans enjoyed Jack Garratt's Surprise Yourself after Andy Murray won his second Wimbledon title, while the BBC's Euros coverage finished with Bowie's Heroes cut to scenes from the competition, including Portugal beating France in the final), we examine the phenomenon's most ubiquitous songs.

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1. Alistair Griffin - What If

When Andy Murray first won Wimbledon in 2013, beating Novak Djokovic in the final, the BBC set its closing montage - half in black and white for maximum gravity - to a song by a former contestant on Fame Academy 2. Middlesbrough songwriter Alistair Griffin was mentored by Robin Gibb, who said he had "a unique talent". Perhaps the Bee Gee would have been pleased with What If, a wistful piano ballad that asks, "What if all this ends in glory?" Either way, it was ideal for remembering every huff and puff of Murray's win.

This isn't Griffin's only foray into sport. His song Always No. 1 has been used in BBC Formula 1 coverage and he co-wrote 2014's official Tour De France song The Road with Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh. Don't think you've heard the last of him.

2. Spandau Ballet - Gold

Taken from Spandau Ballet's 1983 album True, this slice of cheesy, life-affirming pop is a no-brainer for an Olympics montage. Unsurprisingly, the BBC deployed it at the first available opportunity - the following summer's Los Angeles games. "Gold!" bellows a triumphant Tony Hadley, "Always believe in your soul / you've got the power to know / you're indestructible." The montage featured a typical scene-setter in the form of a thermometer pushing 100 degrees, a lonely rower surrounded by mist and foam and this closing quote from British decathlon champion Daley Thompson: "I've got the big 'G' boys."

3. Vangelis - Chariots of Fire

Is this the ultimate sporting song? Blade Runner composer Vangelis concocted this epic for the 1981 film of the same name, which told the story of two competitors in the 1924 Olympics. A needly synth line is slowly absorbed by brass-like bursts and echoey drums that just swell and swell, conjuring memories of school sports days and just about every post-1981 Olympics. This was the official theme for 1984's Winter Games, blasted out before the men's 100m final in 1996 and played during every medal ceremony at London 2012. Steve Jobs also harnessed its power when presenting his first Macintosh computer to the world in 1984.

4. Imogen Heap - Thriller

After Gary Lineker summarised Spain's victory over Italy in the final of Euro 2012 in rhyming monologue, only one song would do. Thunder and lightning strikes over images of England's Joe Hart and Portugal's Ronaldo and the evil laughter at the end of the spoken-word intro cuts to a still of a devil-eyed Spanish fan. But the version of Michael Jackson's Thriller that follows is more piano weepy than taut floorfiller. Recorded breathily by Imogen Heap for Dermot O'Leary's Radio 2 show in 2009, this gentle rendition is perfect for slow-motion reminders of just how much pain Steven Gerrard's face can convey with one post-penalties-defeat expression. Harrowing.

5. Queen - We Are the Champions

Another screamingly obvious choice for TV producers, Queen's 1977 celebration of victory was found to be the catchiest song ever by scientists at Goldsmith's University in 2011. Eighteen years after its use as the official song for World Cup 94, it soundtracked the BBC's closing Six Nations montage, providing an ideal opportunity to pair the guitar eruptions that accompany Freddie Mercury singing "But I've come through" with shots of pre-match flamethrowers. Just try to escape the euphoria at the end, as Welsh players douse themselves and their trophy in champagne to Brian May's wailing lead.

6. R.E.M. - Everybody Hurts

In 2012, theatrical producer David King concluded that Everybody Hurts is the R.E.M.'s most depressing song of all time. Its montage appearances are not limited to sport (see also: talent show exits, DIY nightmares and serious documentaries) but its all-consuming sadness hits hard. The toils of Great Britain's rugby league team in 1998's series defeat to New Zealand are made more soul-destroying by its presence in Sky's closing video. But at least the pain is shared. In sport, everybody hurts, sometimes.

7. Elbow - One Day Like This

Another go-to for televised triumph, this envelops like a duvet in daytime. Elbow cannily released their most famous track in June 2008, just in time for the BBC to use it daily in coverage of that summer's Beijing Olympics. After less celebrated appearances in episodes of Holby City and Hollyoaks Later, Elbow brought its booming hopefulness to the closing ceremony at London 2012, for which singer Guy Garvey had already composed the BBC's official theme, First Steps:

8. Cast - Walkaway

Ask any England football fan to reel off their memories of Euro 96 and you'll likely hear about Gazza's volley and dentist's chair celebration, Alan Shearer's rocket right boot, Gareth Southgate's penalty and Walkaway by Cast. In arguably one of its saddest montages, the BBC picked the Liverpool Britpop band's hopeless hit to help hammer home what might have been, exactly 30 years after England's only tournament triumph. John Power's last line still smarts: "There ain't nothing left for you / Just walkaway, walkaway, walkaway." Britpop's association with English football failure didn't end here; Oasis's Stop Crying Your Heart Out accompanied another miserable montage from World Cup 2002.

9. John Lennon - Imagine

John Lennon's biggest-selling solo single is an affecting rumination on a world untainted by discrimination and hatred. How better to close the door on London's historic third Olympic Games than to have Emeli Sandé sing it over a painstakingly crafted highlights montage (it was also used, sung by Lennon, in the closing ceremony). Iconic images of Mo Farah, Usain Bolt, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton and more segue slowly before a closing shot of Jessica Ennis-Hill choking with emotion on the podium. As Sandé sings a final "as one", the hepthatlete's tears are finally visible. It's likely yours were, too.

10. Rudyard Kipling - If

Perhaps the inspiration for Sue Barker to recite Shakespeare came from a montage of Des Lynam reading Rudyard Kipling's If at the close of the 1998 World Cup. His voice unwavering, Lynam somehow lends footage of Glenn Hoddle chewing gum and wearing a polo shirt funereal weight. Of course, that was appropriate for England's exit. Better still is the telling line, "You'll be a man, my son," uttered over a lingering shot of a then 18-year-old Michael Owen. A classic montage trick, offering hope just when it seems there is none.

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