Background of the Winter Olympic Awards

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The Olympics is a world-wide athletic event that dates back to 776BC. While a lot about these events have changed through the years, the one thing that has remained consistent is that the Olympics are designed to find the greatest athletes in the world. In 776BC, each winner of an event was awarded with an olive wreath to adorn on their head. Today, the olive wreath has been replaced with the coveted gold medal, and the second and third place winners are also honored with the silver and bronze medal, respectively.

Since the inception of awarding medals to the top three athletes, the medals themselves have undergone quite a transformation. With the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia just around the corner, now is a good time to look back at the unique history of these prestigious medals.

Winter Olympic Awards

The IOC’s Role

Ultimately the IOC (International Olympic Committee) has the final say on the design of each Olympic medal. They work closely each Olympic year with the NOC (National Olympic Committee) of the host country to create a unique and stunning medal for each Olympic Games. The IOC has created a set of standards for the Summer Olympic Games, such as the medals’ shape, diameter and thickness, but the committee has not put these same restrictions on the winter Olympic medals. Therefore, you will see a wider variety of medal designs and shapes for the winter Olympics than for the summer games. In fact, the winter games’ medals tend to be larger, thicker and heavier than the ones distributed for the summer games.

Winter Olympics

The first winter Olympics was held in 1924 in France. These games have been held every four years, except during World War II, and when the IOC decided to have the summer and winter Olympics held in alternating years. These Olympics includes a wide variety of competitions, including figure skating, ice hockey, speed skating, skiing, bobsleigh, luge, and curling. There are over 90 different competitions and the gold, silver, and bronze medals are handed out to the top athletes in each competition. These awards are given to the top athletes at an awards ceremony, where they will stand on a podium while the winner’s national anthem plays.

Winter Olympic Medals

Since the IOC has not put many restrictions on the winter Olympic medals, there has been a wide variety of medals issued. The majority of the medals have been circular in size, except the 1984 medals were square with a circular inset, and the 2006 medals were circular, but included a hole in the center. Some things have remained consistent on the medals from year to year. For example, all of the medals have the Olympic rings on them (except 1924), the number of the Olympic Games, the current year and the host city.

This, however, is where the similarities end, as most host cities try to incorporate the history of the Olympic Games with the history of their country into the medal’s design. Most of the medals through the years have included various Olympic symbols, such as the torch, a Greek goddess, and athletes. A professional designer is hired to create these notorious medals and it takes years of planning and preparation. The main goal for each host country is to create stunning medals that both honor the athlete and pay tribute to the Olympic Games.

Although the design for the winter Olympic medals changes significantly from year to year, the prestige and recognition that comes with the medals will never change. In fact, the Olympics are not the only event that awards medals to honor those who have showed stellar performance.  Medals are awarded to everyone from the Nobel Peace Prize to local high school sport teams and from spelling bee winner to corporate employee recognition. These medals are the perfect way to recognized someone for a job well done.