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  All about medals at Olympics

All about medals at Olympics

Published : Jul 11, 2016, 11:44 pm IST
Updated : Jul 11, 2016, 11:44 pm IST

An Olympic medal is a symbol of excellence and the culmination of years of hard work. Nothing drives athletes harder.

An Olympic medal is a symbol of excellence and the culmination of years of hard work. Nothing drives athletes harder. Although it’s infinitely easier to make an Olympic medal than winning one, a lot of thought and efforts go into the production of the circular thing.

Winners took all in ancient Olympics as there was no recognition for second and third places. A humble olive wreath was the prize that adorned the head of the winner. More expensive gifts were lavished on champions in their hometowns later on but it was the olive crown on the final day of the Games that mattered most to them.


The inaugural modern Olympics in 1896 also imitated its ancient avatar by awarding the winner an olive wreath. In addition, the champion received a silver medal and a diploma. The runner-up was presented a bronze medal and the third place merited nothing.

It was only at St. Louis in 1904 that today’s practice of gold, silver and bronze for first, second and third places was established. The International Olympic Committee standardised the medal’s design in 1928. A design created by Giuseppe Cassioli of Italy in a competition run by the IOC in 1921 became the norm.

Cassioli’s creation featured the winged Greek victory god of Nike holding a palm in her left hand and a winner’s crown in her right on the front and an Olympic champion being carried by a group of people on the reverse. The pattern continued until 1972 without change. From the Munich Games, the IOC gave the local organising committee leeway to design the reverse side. In 2000, Sydney’s Opera House found a place on the reverse.


In the last three editions of the Olympic Games, the front featured a flying Nike, as opposed to a sitting Nike. Acropolis and the Panathinaiko Stadium, two symbols of ancient and modern Greece respectively, were used in the background. Rio will also go for the same design on the front and the reverse will showcase the logo of the 2016 Games prominently.

In London 2012, more than 90% silver was used in the making of both gold and silver medals. The gold medal had a little more than 1% gold than the silver medal. The bronze medal was completely made of copper.