14 February 2014, 18:24

Sochi Olympic medals design the best in decades

Sochi Olympic medals design the best in decades

The Sochi Olympics are well underway and many athletes, including those from Team Russia, have already had a chance to celebrate their victory and hang a much-awaited gold, silver or bronze medal around their necks. With the first sets of medals dished out, the Voice of Russia decided to take a closer look at the medals of the current and previous Winter Olympics and see which of them turned out to be the designers’ success and which, well, didn’t…

Sochi 2014


Photo: Voice of Russia

The basis for the design of Sochi 2014 medals was Russia’s incredible landscape contrasts. It’s the country where Europe meets Asia, pristine nature and megacities coexist, and innovation blends with a rich cultural heritage.

The sun's golden rays deflected through a prism of snowy mountain tops and the warm sea and frosty ice living side-by-side are embodied in the medals.

Many believe that thanks to the bright and original design featuring a mosaic of Russia’s various cultures and ethnicities and unusual combination of glass and metal the Sochi medals can be credited for both a classy and unique beauty and the best design in decades.

Vancouver 2010


Photo: EPA

As some sports fans think the medals for the Vancouver Winter Olympics reminded potato chips, the design behind them was supposed to be more sophisticated as they featured original West Coast aboriginal designs, including signature elements of the orca and raven artwork, such as the orca's eye, the curve of its dorsal fin or the contours of the raven's wing. In addition to the medals, a silk scarf printed with the master artwork was presented to each Olympian who won the medal.

Torino 2006


Photo: EPA

The reaction to the Torino Olympics medals ranged, with some believing the medals resembled doughnuts or bagels and others tending to see a giant life saver or even a compact disc in them.

However, in creating the medals, Italian designers sought the best way to symbolize their country. When they put their minds to it, they came up with the idea to make a hole in the middle which, according to designer Dario Quatrini, represented the open space of an Italian piazza, or city square, even though the medals weren’t square at all. By the way, it was the first time in Olympic history when the medals had a hole.

Salt Lake City 2002


Photo: EPA

Designers of the Salt Lake City medals decided that athletes had had enough of simple gold, silver and bronze circles and made the medals look like rocks tumbled in a Western river. Besides, for the first time in Olympic history, medals depicted individual sports. On one side of each medal was an athlete emerging from ice, accompanied by the Olympic Rings, and on the reverse side the Greek goddess Nike held a small victory leaf over a depiction of the event for which the medal was presented.

Nagano 1998


Photo: AFP

The Nagano Organizing Committee described the medal design as "an expression of Nagano and Japan," with the engraved Nagano Olympics emblem placed prominently in the center of each medal. In line with the Olympic Charter, weights, kinds and sizes for the medals are pre-determined, but traditional Nagano materials and techniques - lacquer, cloisonné and engraving - were used to create them.

Lillehammer 1994


©Photo: Flickr.com/cliff1066™/cc-by

The Lillehammer Games medals were probably the most controversial as in a break with tradition, designers who, perhaps, felt the need to outdo Albertville’s originality, combined the trio of metals with granite excavated from the construction of the ski jump.

Albertville 1992


Photo: AFP

The medals for the Albertville Olympics were entirely hand-made and for the first time on record created in glass, set with gold, silver and bronze. But there were many of those who thought it wasn’t such a good idea to use glass for the design.

However, regardless of the size, form or material medals are made of, the athletes enjoy them anyway as they are the symbol and proof of their hard work and great accomplishments. As far as tastes are concerned, it’s common knowledge they differ, so it’s up to you to decide which designs happened to be beautiful and original and which, well, didn’t…

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