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The Olympic Medals in Paris Will Literally Contain a Piece of the Eiffel Tower
All of the gold, silver, and bronze medal winners at the Summer Olympic Games in Paris will also be taking home an iconic piece of the city itself.
The Olympic and Paralympic medalists this summer will not only get to take a piece of Paris home in their hearts, but they’ll also be taking a literal piece of the city home around their necks.
On Thursday, organizers of the Paris Summer Games unveiled the gold, silver and bronze medals that will each showcase a hexagonal piece of the original wrought iron used to build Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower 135 years ago. The emblem will be the unique identifier of a Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic medal.
“What makes this Paris 2024 medal special is that it will feature an original part of the Eiffel Tower,” said Tony Estanguet, the president of the Paris 2024 organizing committee. “We wanted to offer all the medalists of Paris 2024, Olympic and Paralympic, a part of the Eiffel Tower from 1889.”
So Exactly What Part of the Eiffel Tower Was Used To Make the Olympic Medals?
The unique iron portion of the Olympic medals was taken from bits of the tower that had been previously removed during various renovations and kept preserved in storage, Joachim Roncin, head of design at the Paris Games organizing committee, said according to the Associated Press.
The 330-meter monument was designed in 1889 for the World’s Fair by Gustav Eiffel, after whom the tower was named. It stood proudly over Paris as they hosted two other Olympic Games, the last one exactly 100 years ago.
“The concept came after a few discussions. We realized that there’s one symbol known across the world, which is the Eiffel Tower,” Roncin said. “We said to ourselves, ‘Hey, what if we approached the Eiffel Tower Operating Co. to see if it’s possible to get a bit of the Eiffel Tower to integrate into the medal?’”
The company greenlit the project, which was the first step to combing Olympic history with French history.
How Were the Medals for the 2024 Paris Olympics Designed?
French jewelry house, Chaumet, was the genius behind the design. Each of the 5,084 medals is inlaid with 18 grams of the original monument’s iron, stripped of its brown paint, according to officials of the Games. The hexagonal shape is a reference to France's geographic shape – the nation is sometimes referred to as l'Hexagone
Stamped with “Paris 2024,” the geometric piece of metal is set like a gem in the center, fixed by six metal anchors, inspired by the Eiffel Tower’s rivets.
Surrounding the iron are lines embossed in the gold, silver or bronze to encapsulate the radiance of the historic center piece. Each line was crafted to reflect light off the medal, according to The New York Times. Light will be bouncing off all the winners’ chests this summer, which is a perfect complement to Paris’ nickname, the City of Lights.
“Of course, having a gold medal is already something incredible, but we wanted to add this French touch and we thought that the Eiffel Tower would be this cherry on the top,” said Roncin, per the AP. “It’s something incredible, having a gold medal plus a piece of the history of France.”
How Many Olympic Medals Are Being Made?
Olympic organizers have ordered 5,084 medals, which are being manufactured by the Paris Mint, according to the AP. Roughly 2,600 of those medals are for the Olympic Games, while the other 2,400 are for the Paralympic Games.
How Do the Olympic and Paralympic Medals Differ?
The Olympic and Paralympic Games will share the snazzy new additions to the medals, bringing the two games closer together.
The Games will also share a similar design in the ribbon. Each will be embellished with a lattice design as an homage to the intricate lattice work on the Eiffel Tower. However, the Olympic medal ribbons will be stained a dark blue, while the Paralympic medal ribbons will show off a deep red, to represent the first coats of paint on Paris’ “Iron Lady.”
Chaumet also made the choice to mark the Paralympic medals with a low-angle perspective of the tower, surrounding the skirt of the monument with the words “Paris” and “2024” in universal Braille – a nod to the French inventor of the language for the visually impaired, Louis Braille.
According to Paris 2024, designers also engraved small dashes on the side of the medals for people with visual impairments to differentiate the three winning prizes. One notch means gold, two notches is silver and three notches, bronze.
What Have Olympic and Paralympic Athletes Said about the Medals?
"As usual, Paris 2024 put the athletes at the center of the project," said French biathlete and president of the Paris 2024 Athletes’ Commission Martin Fourcade. "We wanted two things: to have similar medals for Olympians and Paralympians, and for the medals to include a piece of invaluable iron [from the Eiffel Tower].”
Fourcade also said that there were three aspects that needed to be included in the Paris 2024 medals: “the hexagon, the influence of France, and we also wanted the medal to be like a jewel - and that’s why it is set exactly like a precious stone," he added.
Along with Fourcade, other athletes have spoken highly about the representation of France embedded in one of the Games’ iconic aspects.
“As a French person, these medals represent pride, they also represent victory, but they also represent a jewel," Paralympic swimmer Béatrice Hess said, per Olympics officials. "I think they will be even more valuable to us if we win one on home soil."
What Else Will the Olympic and Paralympic Medals Showcase?
The 20-year tradition of Greek embellishments are still proudly included in the medals’ designs. Nike – the Greek goddess of victory – and the Athens Acropolis will be featured on the other side of the medals to represent the history of the Games.
However, this year will also include an engraved image of the Eiffel Tower as a nod to the Olympics being held in France, if the chunk of iron on the front wasn’t enough of an identifier!
To see the top athletes in the world compete for these precious symbols of victory, watch the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris on Peacock and NBC.