May 28, 2022

Tokyo Olympics, special series: from olive wreaths to flying Nike

From olive wreaths to recycled metals from old cellphones and electronics, the award for winning the Olympics, the most sought-after achievement in an athlete’s life, has come a long way, just like the Games have come a long way. themselves. (More sports news)

Made from recycled, pebble-like electronics, the medals for the upcoming Tokyo Games will measure 8.5 centimeters in diameter, featuring the flying image of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.

But, unlike in previous years, these will be made from gold, silver, and bronze (in this case copper and zinc) that have been removed from over 79,000 tonnes of used cell phones and other small electronic devices donated by the Japanese population.

During the ancient Olympic Games, athletes who emerged victorious were awarded “Kotinos” or olive wreaths, which were considered a sacred prize in Greece, representing the highest honor.

In 1896, a long lost tradition of ancient Greece, the Olympic Games were reborn in Athens.

With the rebirth, new practices gave way to older ones and so the custom of awarding medals began – silver for winners while finalists received a copper or bronze medal.

On the front of the medal was Zeus, father of the gods and in whose honor the Games were held, holding Nike, while the back showed the Acropolis.

It was not until eight years later, at the St. Louis Games of 1904, where the now standard gold, silver and bronze medals were used for the first time.

The metals represent the first three ages of man in Greek mythology: the golden age – when men lived among the gods, the silver age – where youth lasted a hundred years, and the bronze, or the age of heroes.

Over the next century, the coveted awards would vary in shape, size, weight, makeup, and in the image they carried.

In 1923, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) launched a sculptor competition to design the medals for the Summer Games.

The drawing by Italian artist Giuseppe Cassioli was chosen as the winner in 1928.

The obverse of the medal was embossed with Nike holding a palm in his left hand and the winner’s crown in the right, with a depiction of the Colosseum in the background and the reverse showed a crowd of people wearing a triumphant athlete.

This design continued for a considerable time.

While host cities were allowed to rework the reverse side of the coin from the 1972 Munich Games, the obverse only changed during the 2004 Athens Olympics.

A new representation of Nike, flying in the Panathenaic Stadium in 1896 to bestow victory on the strongest, highest and fastest, replaced the old one.

Until 1960, winners had medals pinned, but the Rome Olympics had a necklace-like design that allowed athletes to wear the precious good around their necks with a chain.

Four years later, the chain gave way to colored ribbons.

Interestingly, gold medals are not made entirely of the yellow metal. The Stockholm Games of 1912 were the last time an Olympic medal was made entirely of metal. Now, they’re just ditched with it.

In accordance with IOC guidelines, a gold medal must contain at least 6 grams of gold. In reality, money is the bulk of the coin.

China, which first hosted the Beijing Olympics in 2008, introduced medals made of a material other than metal, jade.

Representing honor and virtue in traditional Chinese culture, the coveted gemstone was encrusted on the back of each medal.

At a time when environmental awareness was on the rise, the Rio 2016 Games made history by becoming the most sustainable edition in Olympic history.

The organizers have opted for a greater use of recycled materials.

Not only were the medals made from 30 percent recycled materials, but the ribbons they attached to were made 50 percent from recycled plastic bottles while the gold was mercury-free.

Following in Rio’s footsteps, organizers of the Tokyo Games opted for medals made from recycled electronics, including discarded laptops and smartphones, a proposal that won the Everyone’s Medal campaign launched by the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee in 2017.

“I never dreamed that the design I submitted, purely as a memorial to this lifetime event, would actually be selected,” design winner Junichi Kawanishi told media at the medal launch.

“With their shiny rings, I hope the medals will be seen as a tribute to the efforts of the athletes, reflecting their glory and symbolizing friendship.”