Olympic Medals

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Olympics is considered one of the major sporting events in the World.  To host the Olympics, a candidate city must ensure that they will have adequate (new) infrastructure as well as commit to making a change in their commitment to sports and athletics in their area (to improve on and continue the Olympic legacy).  This is no easy feat for many cities, and competition is quite fierce to be considered to be a venue host city.

However, besides the costs of putting on the Olympics, one must consider the reward the top three athletes will gain in their quest to be on the podium.  Medals in the Olympics are considered the most sought after medals in the World. Each Olympics, medal designs are chosen specifically for that year and more specifically to reflect the games of that venue city.  This is an exhaustive process to design the medals. But have you ever thought of what the medals are made of?  If you have ever been fortunate enough to come close to an Olympic medal, or by chance, picked up an Olympic medal, then you will know how heavy they truly are.  A lot of care goes into the design of the medal.  And the work required for the craftsmanship of the medal as well as the hours of training, coaching and determination required to achieve the medal is outstanding.

So what exactly are these medals made of?  In earlier times of the Olympics, the medals were made of gold!  Those were very expensive medals.  Thousands of athletes compete, and over 900 medals will be awarded. 

In current trends, each Olympic gold and silver medal must contain 92.5% silver and 6 grams of 24-carat gold for coating.  So in essence, Olympic gold doesn’t quite mean that they are getting a medal made of gold.  They are getting a medal made of silver, but coated with gold.  Better than nothing I guess!  But let’s think of Michael Phelps winning eight gold medals at the Beijing Olympics.  If he really wanted to have the gold stripped off his medals, he would only make around $1200.  I’m sure the hours that went into the work that he had to do to earn those medals would equal more than $1200 so he might not be running to convert that.  However, some athletes have done that in the past.  A Polish swimmer in 2004 decided to auction her medal off for charity and was able to raise close to $83,000 (A number much higher  than selling her medal for the gold that it had). 

So although the medals might not be made of pure gold, the symbolic importance of an Olympic medal is worth much more than its weight in gold.  It might in fact be worth much more than that.  In the spirit of the Olympics.  It’s not the money or the gold that the athletes are searching for, it’s in fact, to be number one in their sport and to be awarded with the prestige of the medal, of earning the podium spot.  If we think back to ancient times when podium winners were awarded wreaths, no one was trying to cash in the wreaths.  So, is it really important that Olympic medals be made of pure gold?