Rio Medals Crafted With Sustainability in Mind

While public safety and water pollution continue to unnerve casual spectators and Olympic participants alike in the lead-up to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the organizers of the 31st Modern Olympiad have not given up promoting environmental sustainability and human perseverance.  In accordance with this theme, the medals that will be awarded to the most dominant athletes in the world will echo that same message.

Traditionally, Olympic medals have represented glory, perseverance, hard work, dedication, and strength.  In addition to these characteristics of peak athleticism, the medals in Rio will convey a message of sustainability.  Crafted at the Brazilian Mint from recycled materials and sustainably-mined metals (mercury-free), Rio’s medals demonstrate that beauty does not have to be brand-new; that repurposed does not mean second-rate.

It total, approximately 2.5 tons of metal was used to create the 5,310 medals that will be awarded throughout the Olympic and Paralympic Games this August and September, respectively.  Though gold, silver, and bronze may be the metals most commonly thought of when speaking of Olympic hardware, in truth Olympic medals are largely made of copper.  To briefly recap the composition of Olympic medals, a gold medal is only made up of 1% gold, the remainder being silver (93%) and copper (6%).  Silver medals are nearly identical, composition-wise, being 93% silver and 7% copper, while bronze medals are almost entirely made of copper, with a bronze outer coating.  30% of the silver used in creating the Rio medals was sourced from recycled materials, including X-ray plates, car parts, and mirror surfaces, while the copper used in making each 500 gram medal was taken from scrap found in the Mint itself.

The medals for the Paralympic Games boast another feature unique from any before: each medal contains within its center a small piece of metal that makes a sound when shaken.  The rattle emitted helps visually-impaired athletes to differentiate one medal from another, with gold making the loudest rattle, bronze the softest, and silver somewhere in between.  Rio’s Olympic and Paralympic medals are also wider in the centers than on the edges, unlike any to come before.  The fragment used inside the Paralympic medals was also sourced from scrap material in the Mint.

Rio Olympic Gold Medal Courtesy Rio 2016/Alex Ferro

Rio Olympic Gold Medal
Courtesy Rio 2016/Alex Ferro

Additionally, the ribbons from which the (somewhat) gold, silver, and bronze amulets of accomplishment will hang from were created from recycled plastic bottles.  The bottles were sourced from an organization of people that make a living collecting and reselling used plastic bottles.  The wooden boxes that will house the victors’ medals were also sourced sustainably from indigenous Brazilian freijó wood, obtained from a forest with “certified sustainable” production.  The podiums that athletes will stand on to receive awards were also built sustainably, and will be recycled into furniture when the Games come to an end in September.

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Irish Ringer
7 years ago

Look good to me. I doubt they would use freshly mined materials anyway. This is just trying to appease the green crowd.

Coachandy
7 years ago

Yo Gina!

mcgillrocks
7 years ago

I gotta say it’s almost a bit unfair that an Olympic gold medal has a material worth of ~$700, when Super Bowl rings (and other sports) can be worth tens of thousands of dollars– even for the losing teams (who receive conference championship rings).

It does seem a little unfair to me that the benchwarmers on a losing team receive a commemorative prize worth about 500 times more than a bronze medal. I would hope that the IOC would refine their standards to require the use of somewhat more gold in gold medals (is 5% too much) and greater craftsmanship on the neck ribbon etc. in general for all medals.

I also think the company that makes rings… Read more »

G.I.N.A
Reply to  mcgillrocks
7 years ago

When Superbowl owner showed Putin his nfl ring , Putin said -I could kill someone with that & then he walked off with it .

Jiggs
7 years ago

I pretty much lost my taper from trials.

G.I.N.A
Reply to  Jiggs
7 years ago

I never leave taper.

G.I.N.A
Reply to  Jiggs
7 years ago

Taper is just English for Tapas. You just go around doing things you like like sleeping , eating tasty morsels , drinking a tiny tiny tiny drink with friends then moving on to the next bar, a show , a bicycle ride ..

Not doing anything too strenuous just quick & light or relaxed. Keep yourself fresh & mentally stimulated & try to develope some wit or if that is too much , try & remember some quotes. Dorothy Parker Oscar Wilde Mark Twain are excellent .

Years of Plain Suck
Reply to  G.I.N.A
7 years ago

Kindred spirits!

Several of my favorites:

“The first thing I do every morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.” –Dorothy Parker

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.” –Mark Twain

G.I.N.A
Reply to  Years of Plain Suck
7 years ago

Mark Twain ( & From Russia with love in 2016 ) – If voting mattered they wouldn’t let us do it .

Jiggs
7 years ago

I pretty much lost my taper from trials.

SZ2016
7 years ago

If I were to win Olympic bronze, silver, or gold, they could give me a rusty old bottle cap on a string for all I care. I guarantee the value of those medals won’t be decreased for the athletes. There are plenty of things to be negative about regarding Rio 2016…this is not one of them

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  SZ2016
7 years ago

Not all Olympians are wealthy Americans. Sometimes in the future some of them want to sell or auction off their medals for whatever reason, I wonder how much a rusty old bottle canon a string would sell, compared to copper with gold plate?

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  Attila the Hunt
7 years ago

Old bottle cap on a string ..
Sorry this auto correction mode us annoying

SZ2016
Reply to  Attila the Hunt
7 years ago

Even if a past Olympian did need to sell his or her medal on account of some sudden financial hardship…I would assume that ANY medal, in any form, would bring in quite a bit of cash! The situation, regardless, seems a bit ridiculous!

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  SZ2016
7 years ago

You think someone in India would pay a lot of money for a used bottle cap on a string even if it’s an Olympics medal?

Either you are a very young American or someone very insular who never traveled the world.

And what situation is ridiculous?
There have been countless Olympics medals auctioned off for whatever reasons.

SZ2016
Reply to  Attila the Hunt
7 years ago

The possible income resulting from winning an Olympic medal…contracts with major sports companies, possible coaching positions, support from national athletic associations…is both astoundingly more significant and more reliable than the possible amount of money gained from selling an Olympic medal. I doubt there have been many athletes who valued the monetary worth of these medals over what they truly represent. The ridiculousness, clearly, originates in the absurdly small percentage of cases where your argument could even have a chance of applying.

Attila the Hunt
Reply to  SZ2016
7 years ago

Your comment further confirmed that you are very young with high probability of never traveled the world.

Joel Lin
7 years ago

Cheap, crass and disgusting. This is such an abject insult to Olympians and their accomplishment. This isn’t some high school state championship ring stupid thing…it’s the symbol of being a champion of the world.

mcgillrocks
Reply to  Joel Lin
7 years ago

The last time the gold medals were 100% gold was in 1912. The London 2012 medals were 1.5% gold and 93% silver.

As far as I can tell, there is no reason to believe that due diligence has not been done to create quality medals. The only complaint I have is the gold medal doesn’t look very much like gold– it definitely looks pretty bronze to me.

CaSwim
Reply to  mcgillrocks
7 years ago

lol you rekt him

phelps swims 200 breast rio
7 years ago

Swim in crap to receive a medal that is 99% gold free and made of x-ray plates and car parts.

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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