Olympic Medal Miscellanea

Monday, August 13th, 2012

The Olympics have ended, which means we’ll all have to find something other than NBC’s atrocious coverage to gripe about. Before we move on to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi though, there are a few things from 2012 worth noting, particular with regards to the medals.

First up, the Olympic gold medals aren’t really gold. In fact, this year’s “golds” are 92.5% silver, 6.16% copper, and just 1.34% gold, and they’re worth around $650 or so. The silver medals can fairly be called silver, with the same 92.5% silver composition, along with 7.5% copper creating a value of around $375. The bronze medals, however, are perhaps the saddest of all. They’re 97% copper and the rest tin and zinc, which means they’re worth less than $5.

Small wonder, then, that the IOC was willing to replace Brazilian Judo competitor Felipe Kitadai’s bronze, after his country claimed he dented it in truly implausible fashion.

He wore the medal into the shower as a joke and then bit it because he didn’t want to get water on it and then the strap broke? Why not just say his dog ate it?

Of course, the prizes at the Olympics have a value well beyond their component metals. For instance, you can find a 1956 bronze medal for soccer for $12,000 on eBay. If that is indeed what the medal is for (its provenance does not seem well established), some Bulgarian will be 19090 Lev richer after the sale.

According to this post, medals have also been sold for charity.

Anthony Ervin sold his gold medal from the 2000 Olympics for $17,100, saying that it was just a symbol. He then donated the money to tsunami relief. Ukrainian boxing legend Wladimir Klitschko auctioned off his 1996 gold medal for $1 million for charity, but [it] was then returned to him by the winning bidder.

It’s rather amusing that Wladimir Klitschko is noted for his generosity here, yet the name of the even-more-generous benefactor who bought the medal and then returned it, is unknown.

Not all champions are quite so charitable, however. Some have blown all sorts of money on ridiculous things, like swimmer Ryan Lochte, seen here wearing his absurd $25,000 American flag grill.

Ryan Lochte's Idiotic Grill

As Lochte explained in an MTV article, “[f]or those who don’t know what a grill is, it’s basically a retainer filled with diamonds”. Grill designer1 Paul Wall was also quoted as saying “For mainstream America, grills went out of style, but for the hood, grills have always been in style. So grills have come around full circle, they back in style now.“

I don’t know if Wall has ever been to any part of what might reasonably be considered “mainstream America”, but grills were never in style, period. Of course, the same article indicated the grill cost “cost approximately $1,000 per tooth”, which leaves me wondering just how goddamned many upper teeth Ryan Lochte has.2

If you think there’s some chance you could ever win an Olympic medal, just know this: the speed of sound is too slow for Olympic athletes.

The electronic “pistol” of this summer’s Games was designed to overcome an astonishing problem: The speed of sound is too slow for Olympic athletes. That is to say, athletes far away from the starting pistol were delayed by the time it took for the sound to travel to them, and differences so tiny can matter in races in which the margins are so small.

You can read read the full story at The Atlantic.

Finally, here’s something only tangentially Olympics-related to close things out: a double-decker bus doing pushups.

London Booster


  1. I cannot believe that’s a real job. ↩︎

  2. Given Lochte’s swimming prowess, I suppose it’s possible he’s part-shark, and has multiple rows of teeth. Alternately, his grill could be for both the top and the bottom, and he may actually have an absurdly low number of teeth. Perhaps most likely, however, is that some or all of those involved just can’t do math. ↩︎

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