Olympic medals are arguably some of the most recognizable awards in the world. Athletes dedicate their entire lives for just the chance to win one, and for a few weeks every four years the world gathers in friendly competition and tries to bring a medal (of any color) back home. And with the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi rapidly approaching we thought this would be a good time to give you some fun and interesting facts about the Winter Olympics and those coveted medals.
The Winter Olympics
The first Winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France in 1924. For the first time in the history of the modern Olympics the host country failed to win any gold medals. Instead, France won 3 bronze medals.
Women did not compete in the Olympics until 1912 and only 11 women competed in the first Winter Olympic Games in 1924.
Norway has won the most medals overall (303) at the Winter Games over the years. In fact, nobody has won more medals at the Winter Games than Norwegian cross-country skier Bjorn Dählie, who has won 12 gold, silver, and bronze medals.
The specific composition and unique design of the Olympic medals are determined by the host city’s organizing committee. For instance, if you look at the design for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and compare it to those awarded in Salt Lake City, Turin, and Vancouver you’ll notice stark design differences. However, certain standards must be maintained:
- Gold and silver medals are 92.5% silver.
- Gold medals must be plated with at least 6 grams of gold.
- All Olympic medals must be at least 3 mm thick and at least 60 mm in diameter.
The bronze medals are cast from bronze, which is an alloy of copper and usually contains some amount of tin.
The Sochi Winter Olympics
Sochi will be the biggest Winter Olympics ever, adding 7 new sports to the roster including a figure skating team event, women’s ski jumping, mixed relay biathlon, ski half-pipe, team relay luge, ski slope style and snowboard slope style. The traditional winter Olympic sports include figure skating, speed skating, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, ski jumping and bobsledding.
The 2014 Sochi Olympics are also estimated to be the costliest ever, at $50 billion.
Athletes who win gold medals on Day 9 of the Winter Olympics will receive special medals embedded with fragments of the meteorite that crashed in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk earlier this year.
The Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch was the first to travel in space, with one leg of the relay involving a spacewalk by Russian cosmonauts.
The Sochi Winter Olympic Games have also seen a fair share of controversy, with many calling for a boycott over Russia’s anti-gay laws. Joachim Gauckm, the President of Germany, is the first major political figure to boycott the Games.