Monday, August 6, 2012

Gold Medals Aren't Gold

Beijing Medals, notice the jade

A gold medal is a high standard to reach and why it is awarded in the Olympics for the athletes who are the best. The ancient Olympics did not award medals but rather olive wreaths. It was not considered right to compete for prizes; rather the men should compete for the honor of being the winner. While winning is still a huge honor, athletes are also honored with a medal to denote their placement.

What we know today about that gold medal didn’t always apply in the past. Gold wasn’t always awarded to first place, silver to second and bronze to third. In 1898 silver was awarded to all first place finishers and bronze to second. In 1900 trophies and cups were all de rigueur. The truth is gold medals haven’t been solid gold since 1912 even though they were only introduced in 1904. Today the gold medal is actually silver, 92.5% with 6 grams of gold plating. I’m sure the high cost of gold has made gold plating much more economical. The host country is responsible for producing the medals for all the winners. This can be quite a chunk of change when you factor in other expenses such as stadiums, security and housing.

 Nagano Medals, one has a hole!

Since the host countries are responsible for the manufacturing of the medals some have been a little creative. In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing China the medals had a disc of jade placed in them. How creative is that? Additionally not all of the medals have been round. In 2002 the Salt Lake City Olympics was an octagon in shape. In fact some of the medals have had hollowed out centers, Turin in 2006 and the 1998 Nagano Olympics both went with this design.

There are tons of photographs of athletes with their gold medals firmly clenched in their teeth. They aren’t necessarily testing the metal content. Some former medal winners claim it is all a media attempt at staging. Although the claim that it’s a perfect picture could be true, athlete’s face framed with a medal in their teeth, why not? Any way you look at it an Olympic medal symbolized a vast achievement. There is only one more week till it’s all over so take the time to not only watch the events but the award ceremonies afterwards, because this is what each athlete is striving for, a medal of their own.
Salt Lake City gave out octagons

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