Friday, August 15, 2008

my favorite medals

Every two years I get psyched up for the Olympics, and this year is no exception. The TV broadcasters this time around have been way too obsessed with Michael Phelps (though I freely admit the dude is amazing), and I wish we could get to see something other than volleyball, swimming, and gymnastics in prime time. Nevertheless, I've been enjoying the show.

I was curious about the makeup of this year's medals, which which feature rings of three different colors inside of the three medal types. It turns out that the rings are distinct types of jade, a semiprecious stone common in China. Of course, I had to look up the history of Olympic medals to find out more. I found that Summer Olympics medals are usually pretty boring; by tradition they feature the Greek Goddess Nike, who personified victory. Only recently have countries started adding personal touches to the backs of medals, and I'd say that so far, the Chinese version is the most unique—by a long shot.

Winter Olympic medals are much more creative, and therefore (at least in my view) a lot nicer. They often take an organic form that's not as perfectly circular as Summer Games medals. They also tend to include materials other than the traditional gold, silver, and bronze. I'd say my all-time favorites are the 1994 medals from Lillehammer, Norway and the 2004 rings from Torino, Italy—but the backs of the Beijing medals are a close third. &infin

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