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All the neat stuff about the Olympic medals

Photo by Alex Ferro/Jogos Rio 2016 via Getty Images

The ultimate goal for Olympic athletes is to outperform their rivals, stand up on the podium and win a medal for their event and their country. Ideally that medal will be a first place gold - making that athlete the best at their event in the world (but a silver or a bronze aren't too shabby either)! Each Olympic Games have their unique medals designed and made so let’s check out some cool facts about the medals for Rio!

Good For The Environment

worker cleaning a gold medal

Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images

Made by the Brazilian Mint, the ribbons that go around the athlete’s necks are made from recycled plastic bottles. The gold used was mined without the use of any mercury, which is a highly toxic substance. The silver and bronze medals were made with recycled materials like old car parts, x-ray plates and mirror surfaces. The copper used in the bronze medals was scrap copper from the Brazilian Mint itself. The wooden cases that the medals are presented and stored in are made from freijó wood which comes from a forest that is certified sustainable, meaning that it is safe to remove the wood without harming the environment.


The design features the Rio Olympic Games logo and the words "Rio 2016" written above the iconic Olympic Rings. The name of the event that the medal is given for is engraved on the side edge of each medal. The back of each medal contains an image of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory with the Panathinaiko Stadium and the Acropolis in Greece behind her.

That’s a lot of metal!

several gold medals

Photo by CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images

A total of 5,130 medals were made: 2,488 for the Olympic Games and 2,642 for the Paralympic Games. A total of 2.5 tons of metal was used including gold, silver, zinc, bronze and copper - that's about the same weight as an Asian elephant! And each medal weighs about 500 grams - about the same weight as five hundred nickels.

Cool new features!

paralympic medals with braille

Photo by Alexandre Loureiro/Getty Images

The medals made for the Paralympic Games feature braille - tiny raised bumps that spell out "Rio 2016 Paralympic Games" and can be read by the visually impaired by moving their fingers over the bumps. They also have a tiny device inside the medal that makes a rattling noise when the medal is shaken. This way those that are visually impaired will know what colour their medal is based on how loud the rattle is. Gold makes the loudest rattling sound and bronze makes the quietest.