Thirteen kilos of pure gold, about a ton of silver, and about a ton of bronze. These are the ingredients for the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games medals.
Production is already under way. For the first time since Amsterdam 1928, and with IOC approval of an ATHENS 2004 proposal made in June 2003, Olympic medals once more have a Greek look.
On the obverse of the Athens medals will be the statue of Nike by Paeonius, placed in the Panathinaiko (Panathenian) Stadium where the Games where revived in 1896, with the Acropolis in the background. The reverse will show the flame from the Olympic Torch Relay; a quotation from Pindar's Eighth Olympian; the ATHENS 2004 emblem; and the name of the sport for which the medal has been awarded.
The design of the medal is by Elena VOTSI and the relief is by Kostas KAZAKOS. Nearly 3000 medals will be cut: 986 gold, 986 silver, and 1150 bronze.
The Paralympic Games medals carry the Paralympic emblem and the legend ATHENS 2004 in Braille on the obverse. The reverse shows the eternal symbol of Athens, the Parthenon (as it looked in 1896), and has the legend 'XIIth Paralympic Games, Athens 2004'. This medal was designed and cut by Konstantinos Kazakos. Approximately 1100 medals will be STRUCK for the Paralympic Games in each category. All medals are manufactured by EFSIMON SA, the company sponsoring Olympic medal production.
How Medals Are Made
Striking of medals begins with the creation of the model by the artist, based on an original design. The first model is made in plasticine, then in plaster. The artist sculpts a three-dimensional prototype of the medal. Then a high-accuracy scanner is used to transfer the digital image into a pantograph, which carves the steel mould. (Medal production started immediately after ATHENS 2004 had approved the model, about a month ago).
Before going into production, the mould undergoes a process to make it more resistant to pressure. In production powerful presses will be used on the discs of silver or bronze to fashion the image on both sides of the medal.
Bronze and silver medals are struck from pure bronze and pure silver, using one and the same process. Gold medals require a special process, with a coat of gold of a particular thickness - matching IOC specifications - being laid on the base of silver of which the medal is made.
All medals are sent to be finished by the hands of expert craftsmen in the following phase of production. Medals destined to be gold medals have their own separate path.
Striking gold medals
Striking gold medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games calls for a special process. After being finished, gold medals are sent to a certified Swiss laboratory, working in partnership with the IOC, for their coating of gold.
The medals are coated with a deep layer of gold, by an electrolytic process of absolute accuracy. For gold medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games ATHENS 2004 will use up a total of 13 kilograms of gold. Each medal is coated with 6 grams of pure gold.
The gold used is 75 microns deep, as per IOC specifications - deeper than the ordinary coating process which only has a depth of 50 microns. The medal is then chased with a special enamel and is returned - now truly a golden medal - to Greece so that the name of the sport can be engraved on it. A ribbon is attached to the back of the medal and it is couched in a box specially designed by EFSIMON in consultation with ATHENS 2004.
Each medal weighs roughly 150 gm and is 60 mm in diameter. (This does not take into account the ribbon for hanging the medal, which is 5 mm high and 3.5 cm wide).
The production process is laborious. A maximum of 150 medals can be produced a day, as there is very strict quality control. The gold and silver are from Switzerland, the bronze is from Greece.
EFSIMON's president Nikos KONSTANTOPOULOS is at pains to point out that the only part of the production done in Switzerland is the gold plating; the remainder of the production all takes place in Greece. There are a total of fifteen employees working at the company's premises in Aspropyrgos, either as electronics specialists, to operate the hi-tech machinery, or as machiners, or as goldsmiths, to applying the finishing touches.
Olympic commemorative medals are also struck at these premises. They are smaller in size (5 cm diameter). The total number struck for the Olympic and Paralympic Games will be 52,000 and one ton of bronze will be used for their manufacture.