The Medals at the 2020 Olympics Will be Unlike any Others

Olympic medals have become among the most sought after achievements in the sports which participate in the international competitions. The gold, silver, and bronze are not only achievements within one’s sports. They come with a nation’s pride that cannot be replicated in most other competitions. Because of that, there is a certain aura of excellence and infamy connected to the Olympics that cannot be replicated in league championships and smaller individual competitions. However, there will be a slight change to the traditional medals in the 2020 Olympics in the way that they are designed.

Medals in the Olympics

Although the Olympics are often branded as an ancient tradition, the current form, according to the organization’s official website, premiered in 1896 in Athens. Here, the silver medal was not a reward for the runner-up, but a prize for the winner, who also received an olive wreath. 

It wasn’t until eight years later that the medals as we know them appeared in the St. Louis games. Even then, it didn’t become standard until 1928. 

The necklace-like design of the medals came in 1960. Before that, winners had medals pinned to them. While the design of the medals has occasionally changed since those days, it mostly remained consistent. The most recent change came in the 2004 games when the goddess of victory had a design upgrade. Winter games of the past featured different designs. The material they are made from also changes from time to time, with Sochi using etched polycarbonate cores. 

For the 2020 Olympics, however, things will change even more. 


Despite their names, the medals used in the Olympics aren’t entirely made up of the metal they are named after. There are strict guidelines, however, about the minimum amount that must be used. Silver medals must have 92.5% silver, although Tokyo’s will be 100%. Gold medals are historically a hybrid, with at least 6 grams of gold covering a silver interior.

Medals at the 2020 Olympics

The medals for the 2020 Olympics will be made from old phones and recycled electronics.
The medals for the 2020 Olympics will be made from old phones and recycled electronics. | Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Images

Promoting recycling and sustainable materials, the Tokyo Olympics will feature cores that are made using old cell phones and electronics. As more and more countries try to think of new, green ways to promote the preservation of the Earth and its resources, this is the first Olympics that will do so in this way. The result will be a pebble-like appearance with the metals being stripped from the electronic sources. 

Japanese citizens donated the devices in a drive called “Everyone’s Medal,” which called for people to give their old gadgets for the cause. The medals will also be used for the Paralympics the following month. Junichi Kawanishi designed the backs of the medals. That is where countries put the bulk of their own spin on the prizes. 

Kawanishi beamed about his opportunity

“I never dreamed that the design I submitted, only as a memorial to this lifetime event, would be actually selected, With their shining rings, I hope the medals will be seen as paying tribute to the athletes’ efforts, reflecting their glory and symbolizing friendship.”

Looking forward

In the end, organizers of the Japan games collected 79,000 tons of old electronics and cell phones for the medals. That included six million cell phones. The result was 32 kilograms of gold, 3,500 kilograms of silver, and 2,200 kilograms of copper and zinc for the bronze medals. Although the 2020 Olympics are still a year away, Tokyo is already looking forward to hosting the event. The medals, the games, and all of the excitement will begin on July 24, 2020, and run through August 9.