Monday, May 9, 2016

What you need to know about 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics Medals

Rio 2016 Summer Olympics is here with us, this the 31st edition of the Summer Olympics; also known as Rio 2016 Olympics. One of the most common features of the Olympics Games is the awarding of medals to the first three top competitors in the each of the sporting events.

The medals awarded are either classified as gold medal; which is awarded to the winner of the event, the silver medal awarded to the second best competitor and finally the bronze medal awarded to the third best placed competitor.

It’s not only the top three who are awarded medals, any other competitor who do not make it to the podium for the medal ceremony is awarded a medal for participating. Besides each of the competitors goes home with a diploma for participating.

But what is the story behind this medal awards? In the ancient Olympics the winners were not awarded with medals, actually they went home with an Olive Branch from the wild olive trees in Olympia. The tradition of giving the medals came with the modern Olympics back in 1896 and 1900. However, unlike today only the winner and the second best placed competitors were given medals with the winner getting a silver medal, an olive branch and a diploma.

The second best placed competitor went home with a copper/bronze medal, a branch of laurel and a diploma, while the third best placed person got nothing, maybe a pat at the back, well am not sure about if anyone patted the guy or girl for ending up third.

The 1900 Summer Olympics Medals

This Picture is Courtesy of Wikipedia

The 1904 St Louis Summer Olympics saw several changes on the medal for games. First, the winner got a gold medal; the second person got a silver medal, while the third competitor went home with a bronze medal. Each competitor got a certificate of participation. The gold, silver and bronze medals idea was borrowed from the Greek Mythology denoting 3 ages of human being. There was the Gold Age when human and mythical gods lived together; there was the Silver Age when youth lasted for 100 years and then lastly the Bronze Age; or the age for heroes.

As much as they are referred to as the gold, silver and bronze medals, they hardly have significant amount of the metal they carry the name for. This is especially for the gold medal. The only time pure gold was used to make a gold medal was in the 1912 Summer Olympics held in Swedish Capital City; Stockholm. To put this into perspective, the 2012 gold medal was made of 6 grams of gold, while the rest was silver 925 grade. Its value was about US$ 700. The silver medal was made 925 grade silver and copper, while the bronze medal was made mostly copper; 97% while the rest was some tin and zinc.

The Olympics Medal Design

From the 1896 Summer Olympics, to the 1924 edition of the games, the host designed the medal without any design criteria from the International Olympics Committee (IOC). However all that changed in the 1928 Olympics, when IOC provided a design criteria for the front part of the medal. The front part of the Olympics medal is actually known as Observe. This design criteria was known as Trionfo and came after a design competition in which an Italian; Giuseppe Cassioli, who was a painter and sculptor, won with his Trionfo design. The Trionfo design had the front side showing the Greeks goddess of victory; Nike, whose one hand was holding corn’s ear and other one wreath or the winner’s crown. Besides, the Trionfo had a background showing the Roman’s Colosseum.

The Trionfo medal design of the 1936 Summer Olympics

This Picture is Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Colosseum would create controversies in the future as we would see in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Trionfo is the Italian word for "triumph", and this Giuseppe design was only changed in the 2004 Summer Olympics. This was after the Greeks complained about the designs use of Colosseum, which are of Roman origin as opposed to using something from Greeks, who were the innovators of Olympics. The 2004 Summer Olympics medal design has the Colosseum replaced with Panathinaikos stadium. This is where the Modern Olympics were first held in the 1896 edition. This new design was used in 2004, 2008 and 2012 and it will be one in use in the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

International Olympics Committee has laid down medal design criteria. The front side of the medal remains the same however a hosting nation is allowed to customize the medal’s back face.

The medal is circular in shape, this was once not the case; the 1900 medal was nothing but circular actually is was rectangular, but for now it must be circular. Besides an Olympics medal must not be less than 6 centimeters in diameter with a minimum of 3 millimeter thickness. As for the gold medal, it must have at least 6 grams of gold and the rest is silver 925 grade. The silver medal must have silver 925 grade while the bronze medal must be made of copper and some tin and zinc and should cost less than US$ 3 to make.

Hence there will be no difference between the 2012 London Olympics medal front part, but we might have Christ the Redeemer Statue on the backside of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics Medals, well even Amazon and Copacabana beach would do.