Olympic Games Medals

In the ancient Olympics, no medals were awarded. The first-place winner was given an olive branch to wear on his head. The second and third place winners did not receive anything.

At the first Games in 1896, silver medals were awarded to the winners and bronze to the second place getters. In 1900, most winners received cups or trophies instead of medals. At the 1904 Games in St. Louis, gold replaced silver as the medal awarded for first place.

Since 1928, the front side of every Olympic Games medal was essentially the same: an image of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, the Olympic Rings, the coliseum of ancient Athens, a Greek vase known as an amphora, a horse-drawn chariot, and the year, number of the Olympiad, and host city. Each host city was allowed to add special details to this design.

olympic medal A Paris 1900 Olympic Games gilt winner's plaque,
inscribed CONCOURS DE SAUVETAGE
SUR TERRE [LIFE SAVING ON LAND]

A new design was created for the 2004 Games, which features the Greek Panathenaic Stadium (where the modern Olympics were revived in 1896) and a new image of Nike. The new image is based on a statue carved in 421 BC which was kept in the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, and shows Nike flying into the stadium as if to crown the winners with a wreath.

The last Olympic gold medals that were made entirely out of gold were awarded in 1912. Today's 'gold' medals are actually made of sterling silver and covered with a thin coat of pure gold (6 grams or .21 ounces). The current specifications is that each medal must be at least three millimeters thick and 60 millimeters in diameter.

olympic medalsMedal Designs and Trivia

For the reverse of the medal, each organizing committee is allowed their own design. Included here are descriptions of some of these.

Atlanta 1996 Olympic Medals

At the games in Atlanta, the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG ) selected the ACOG logo plus a pictogram of the particular sport the medal is being awarded for. There were a total of 1,838 medals awarded - 604 gold, 604 silver, and 630 bronze. There are more bronze medals awarded as some Olympic events do not have third or fourth place winners - the losers in semi-final rounds are both awarded bronze medals.

Athens 2004 Olympic Medals

The copper for the 2004 Athens Olympics medals came from Cyprus. It was transported to Greece in June 2004 in a full-scale replica of the ancient Greek merchant ship 'Kyrenia" which sank off the coast over 2000 years ago.

Beijing 2008 Olympic Medals

The medals for the Beijing Games were 70mm in diameter and 6mm in thickness. The medal for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games was inlaid with a jade disk, inspired by an ancient Chinese piece called "Bi". Jade has an important place in Chinese culture as it represents beauty and excellence in all things. The medal hook is inspired by the dragon which is a symbol of strength and power.

London 2012 Olympic Medals

On one side is depicted Nike with Panathinaiko Stadium in the background, and on the other The River Thames and the London Games logo with angled lines in the background. The medals were designed by David Watkins, and made by the Royal Mint. Diameter: 85mm, thickness: 7mm, weight: 375–400 grams.

Rio 2016 Olympic Medals

On the obverse side of the medal, Nike, goddess of victory, is depicted flying into the Panathinaikos stadium. Above the image are is the inscription: "XXXI Olympiada Rio 2016". The reverse side features laurel leaves surrounding the Rio 2016 Olympics logo. For the first time in Olympic history, the medals were made slightly thicker at their central point compared with the edges.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medals

There are plans for the Tokyo Olympic Games' medals to be made from recycled metal, taken from old mobile phones and and small household appliances donated by people across Japan.

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