Athletes who win medals at the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Paris won’t just win gold, silver or bronze. Their medals will also include a piece of iron – wrought iron, to be exact, from the Eiffel Tower itself.
Games organizers announced Thursday that each of the 5,084 medals created for the Paris events will be decorated on one side with a hexagon-shaped piece of iron salvaged from the French capital’s iconic monument.
“This exceptional object had to meet another very strong symbol of our country and our capital,” declared Tony Estanguet, president of the Paris 2024 organizing committee, during the inauguration of the medal design in Saint-Denis, a suburb north of Paris. Paris where several Olympic events will take place.
Mr Estanguet said the iron used in the medals will be made from recycled fragments of the original construction of the Eiffel Tower dating from 1889, which had been left unused in a warehouse after renovation work.
Stripped of their brown paint and polished, each fragment will weigh 18 grams, or just over half an ounce, and will be shaped into a hexagon – the shape of France.
The hexagons, stamped “Paris 2024” and the Games logo, will be set into the medal with claws in the shape of rivets of the Eiffel Tower, using a technique similar to that used to affix precious stones in jewelry. Ridges of radiating lines designed to reflect light, a nod to Paris’s nickname as the City of Lights, surround the hexagons.
“We wanted this medal to be beautiful, we wanted it to be symbolic, and what could be more symbolic than bringing home a piece of French heritage,” Martin Fourcade, five-time Olympic champion and also president of the Athletes of Paris 2024. ” Commission, said during the presentation.
“It makes me proud to be French,” added Béatrice Hess, a former French swimmer with 20 Paralympic titles. “It’s a gem.”
The designs on the other side of the Olympic medals – which are made from recycled metal and must follow precise specifications imposed by the International Olympic Committee – will vary. They will include traditional symbols of the Games, including Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, as well as the Acropolis of Athens, as well as an engraving of the Eiffel Tower.
The Paralympic Games medals will be different, with a low-angle view beneath the Eiffel Tower and the words “Paris” and “2024” written in Braille — the writing system for the visually impaired named after Frenchman Louis Braille. These medals will also have notches on the edges: one for gold, two for silver and three for bronze.
Olympic organizers have long had the opportunity to nod to their country’s culture in the design of their medals; at the 2008 Beijing Games, the medals were inlaid with a jade disc. However, the announcement by Paris Games organizers appears to be the first time a city has used fragments of a real monument.
The medals are manufactured by Monnaie de Paris — the official mint of Paris — and were designed by Chaumet, a 244-year-old Parisian jewelry company owned by LVMH, the French luxury conglomerate owned by Bernard Arnault. LVMH is one of the main sponsors of the Games, with funding of more than $150 million.
Antoine Arnault, one of Mr. Arnault’s children and head of communications and image at LVMH, said during the presentation Thursday that “it was a real challenge to work with a piece of the Iron Lady “.
“It’s not just a medal that we are awarding today,” he added. “It’s a work of art.”
The Eiffel Tower is perhaps the most recognized monument in France, with around 7 million visitors per year. Several events at the Paris Games will take place in an ephemeral stadium installed on the Champs de Mars, the park which leads to the tower.