Paris Olympic and Paralympic medals encrusted with pieces of the Eiffel Tower

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An Olympic medal encrusted with a piece of the Eiffel Tower. What do you mean, for a monumental price?

A piece of polished hexagonal iron from the iconic monument is embedded in each gold, silver and bronze medal that will hang around athletes’ necks during the ceremony from July 26 to August 26. 11 Paris and Paralympic Games which follow.

Games organizers unveiled their revolutionary design on Thursday.

Simone Biles has seven medals from her previous two Olympics and LeBron James has two gold medals and a bronze from London, Beijing and Athens. But neither the athletes aiming for the Paris Games, nor any of the approximately 36,600 other medalists from the previous 29 Summer Olympics, dating back to 1896, have ever owned one like this.

By making history at the Games, the Parisian medalists will also bring a little of France and its history home.

Here’s an in-depth look at the medals that are sure to impress:

Are these really pieces of the Eiffel Tower?

Absolutely. The 330 meter high tower is made up of 18,038 pieces of iron. But it’s also getting a little long in the tooth. Built for the 1889 Universal Exhibition, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, engineer Gustave Eiffel’s tower was only intended to remain standing for 20 years.

Instead, it goes on and on – thanks to a little rejuvenating surgery every now and then and constant care. The 135-year-old tower is a veteran of two previous Games – in 1900 and 1924, the last held in Paris.

The pieces of iron embedded in the centers of the Olympic medals each weigh 18 grams (about two-thirds of an ounce).

They were cut from beams and other elements removed from the Eiffel Tower during renovations and stored safely, according to Joachim Roncin, head of design at the Paris Games organizing committee.

“The concept came after some discussions. We realized that there is a symbol known all over the world, and that is the Eiffel Tower,” Roncin said. “We said to ourselves: ‘Hey, what if we approached the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel to see if it was possible to integrate a bit of the Eiffel Tower into the medal?’

The company agreed and “the dream came true,” he said. “It’s really a piece of metal from the Eiffel Tower.”

How were the pieces prepared?

They have been stripped, polished and varnished for their second life.

They are stamped “Paris 2024” and the Games logo, which resembles a flame or the face of a woman with a chic bob haircut. The five Olympic rings are also engraved on the iron of the Olympic medals. The Paralympic logo consisting of three swooshes, known as Agitos, is stamped on the medals for the competition from August 28 to September 27. 8 Paralympic Games.

The hexagonal shape of the iron coins represents France. The French sometimes call their country “L’Hexagone” – the hexagon – because of its shape.

A silver, gold and bronze medal are shown - each with a red bracelet - on a black background.
The Paris 2024 Paralympic medals are photographed Thursday at the organizers of the Paris Olympic Games in Saint-Denis, near Paris. (Thibault Camus/Associated Press)

The Parisian jewelry house Chaumet designed the medals. Six small clasps that hold the iron parts of the medals are a nod to the 2.5 million rivets that connect the Eiffel Tower.

Around the iron pieces are discs of gold, silver or bronze. They are crumpled to reflect the light and make the medals shine. Games organizers say the metal is entirely recycled and not newly mined.

Are the Paris medals unique?

Yes. Olympic medals tend to be quite plain. In a first, the medals from the 2008 Beijing Olympics contained inlaid jade discs. But Paris is the only host city to include pieces of a famous landmark.

“Having a gold medal is already something incredible. But we wanted to add that French touch and we thought the Eiffel Tower would be that icing on the cake,” said Roncin.

“Having a piece of it is a piece of history.”

The ancient Greek goddess of victory, Nike, appears on the other side of the Olympic medals, as she has at every Games since 1928. But Paris also added a small representation of the Eiffel Tower on this side, in a another break with tradition.

The other side of the Paralympic medals shows a view of the tower as if looking upwards from below. For visually impaired people, “Paris 2024” is written in Braille and the edges have notches: one for gold, two for silver, three for bronze.

In numbers

The Paris Mint manufactures 5,084 medals, including approximately 2,600 for the Olympic Games and 2,400 for the Paralympic Games. This is probably more than will be necessary. Some will be retained in case medals need to be reallocated after the Games, which can happen when medalists subsequently have their prizes stripped for doping. Some go to museums. All other spare parts could be destroyed.

Gold medals weigh 529 grams and are not made of pure gold. They are made of silver and plated with 6 grams of gold.

The silvers weigh 525 grams.

The bronzes weigh 455 grams and are an alloy of copper, tin and zinc.

The medals measure 85 millimeters in diameter and 9.2 millimeters thick.

They will be delivered in a dark blue Chaumet box and a certificate from the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel attesting that the pieces of iron come from the monument. The Parisian organizers did not give a monetary value to the medals.

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