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Gold, Silver, Bronze - it is not always that simple

While it is a standard today, the tradition of giving the winners of events at the Olympic Games a gold medal, with second and third getting a silver and bronze medal, has not always been the case. In actual fact, at the ancient Olympics no medals were awarded at all. The first-place winner was given an olive branch to wear on his head, with second and third place not receiving anything.

medal winners some excited medal winners

At the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, silver medals were awarded to the winners and bronze to the second place getters. At the next Games in 1900, most winners received cups or trophies instead of medals. It was not until the 1904 Games in St. Louis that the now-traditional gold, silver and bronze medals were first awarded.

Why More Medals Than Events Are Given Out

We now count the number of gold silver and bronze winners for all games, even if they did not physically receive one. At the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games there were 33 sports with 50 disciplines, and a total of 339 events. Although there are 339 medal events, because some sports award multiple bronze medalists and the occasional tie, there are even more medals awarded.

Here are some examples of when a different number of medals were given out.


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