Olympic and Paralympic Medal Trivia

Producing Olympic and Paralympic medals

The International Olympic Committee stipulates that the following specifications must be met during the production of Olympic medals

Size Diameter: 70-120mm
Thickness 3-10mm (7mm at the London 2012 Games)
Weight 500-800g
Physical properties Gold and silver medals must contain a minimum of 92.5% silver. Gold medals must be plated with at least 6 grams of pure gold.
Shape As a rule, the medals should be circular in shape (the Paris 1900 Games were an exception to this rule, with the awarding of rectangular-shaped medals)
Ribbons Olympic ribbons should be designed to reflect the Games emblem and the 'Look of the Games'
Design Medals must be designed to reflect the values of the Olympic Movement, contain cultural and artistic elements, and elements that incorporate the 'look' of the Organising Committee and the Games Vision.
Design of Summer Games medals
    Obverse design
  • Nike (the goddess of victory in ancient Greek mythology) with the Panathenaic Stadium in the background
  • Official designation of the Games Reverse design
  • Name of competition
  • Games emblem
Design of Winter Games medals
    Obverse design
  • Olympic emblem
  • Official designation of the Games
    Reverse design
  • Name of competition
  • Games emblem

Medal history

  • At the Athens 1896 Games no gold medals were awarded. Winners were presented with a silver medal and an olive wreath
  • The current design of Summer Games medals featuring Nike (the goddess of victory in ancient Greek mythology) set against a backdrop of the Panathenaic Stadium was decided upon by the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee in June 2003.

Medal story from previous Games - the friendship medal

At the Berlin 1936 Games, the final of the Pole Vault event was contested between five athletes including Sueo Oe and Shuhei Nishida from Japan. After a fierce competition, US pole-vaulter Earle Meadows cleared 4.35m to claim the gold medal, while both Oe and Nishida cleared 4.25m. However, as both runners up were Japanese, the Organising Committee of the Berlin Games decided to discuss the matter with the Japanese Chef de Mission. It was eventually decided that Nishida should be awarded the silver medal as he had cleared 4.25m on his first attempt, while Oe, who required two attempts to clear 4.25m, would be given the bronze medal. Nishida was surprised at the decision, which differed from his understanding of the regulations, and offered his second-place spot on the podium to Oe. After their return to Japan, Oe's family, who were aware of the circumstances, urged Oe to return the silver medal to Nishida. After discussions between the two athletes, Nishida and Oe reached an agreement to cut both medals in half and join one half of the silver medal to one half of the bronze medal using a metal adhesive to create two half-silver, half-bronze medals. The medals came to be known as the 'friendship medals' and this gesture is still fondly remembered throughout Japan.

(Source: Olympic Handbook 2016 edition published by the Japan Olympic Academy)