It is impossible to imagine a single Olympics without medals — the main attribute and the most valued part of any of the athletic competitions.
For the throne, for food, for money!
It may seem strange, but medals began to be handed out to Olympic champions only in modern times. In ancient Greece they did not even think about commemorative awards; often, instead of a prize, the athletes received more practical presents. For example, the legendary Heracles, whose name is praised in ancient Greek mythology, was given a laurel wreath for victory, and once the Olympians competed for nothing short of the king's throne. True, the athletes included only the sons of King Endymion, who had decided on that unusual method of handling the issue of succession.
- Photo: Olympic laurel wreath on a winner, Athens 2004. Source: picasaweb.google.com
Yet the most widespread prize in ancient Greece was money — a winner of the Olympic Games received gold money coins. In contrast to medals, they had obvious practical value. However, in ancient times, gold awards had an alternative.
For example, a victor of the Pan-Hellenic Games (in Greek, "periodonik") could over the course of 4 years collect 4 wreaths for victories at the Olympic, Isthmian, Pythian and Nemean Games, as each of the competitions, held yearly, had its own "trademark" wreath. A winner of the Olympic Games was crowned with an olive wreath, Nemean — celery, Isthmian — fir, and Pythian — laurel.
- Photo: Medal from the 1896 Olympic Games Source: wordpress.com
Gold was not chosen immediately.
When Pierre de Coubertin founded the Olympic Games of modern times, he immediately decided to use medals as prizes. However, the system of awards at the first Olympics differed significantly from today's. Imagine, earlier there was no third place, and the gold medal as such did not exist! The winner received a silver medal, and his competitor in second place received bronze. And only at the III Olympic Games in Saint Louis did the awards system that we are all accustomed to appear: on the pedestal stood not only the winner, but also his two closest competitors. And in order to not mix up the medals, it was established that for a victory, gold would be given, for second place — silver, and for third — bronze. And of course certificates for all triumphalists.
- Photo: medals from the Vancouver Olympic Games of 2010. Source: tqn.com
Record holders among the medals.
Did you know that the medals that were devised for the Olympic Games of 2010 in Vancouver beat a unique record? They were the heaviest in the entire history of the Olympic competitions. After precise weighing, experts finally established exact data — each of the awards weighs from 500 to 576 grams, depending on the metal. That is almost 400 grams more than the lightest medals made for the Olympics in Lillehammer. Their weight was all of 131 grams. Incidentally, many mistakenly assume that the gold medal is entirely melted gold. In reality, that is not at all true — gold covers only the surface of the medal, and its "internals" are silver.
- Photo: the USA and USSR basketball teams play ball. Source: nbcsports.com, life.com
Did not come for the medals.
The victory of the USSR basketball team in the finals of the Munich Olympics of 1972 is one of the most controversial pages in the history of the Olympic movement. Losing 49-50 at the moment of the final buzzer, the USSR team in a complex situation overcame that outcome of the match, snatching a victory of 51-50. The protests of the American basketball players, demanding a reversal of the result because of a timing device defect and referee mistakes, were refused, and the Soviet athletes received their gold medals, while the Americans, not agreeing with the outcome of the final match, did not come for their silver medals as a result. Surprisingly, the IOC each year sends the former basketball players from the USA a reminder about the fact that they can collect the medals due to them from the headquarters of the Committee in Lausanne, where they are kept, but not one American athlete has done it to this day.