London 2012 Olympic Games medals unveiled to the world

19:35 27 July 2011

The London 2012 Olympic medals - designed by British artist David Watkins

The London 2012 Olympic medals - designed by British artist David Watkins


To mark one year to go to the London 2012 Games, the London 2012 Olympic medals have been unveiled to the world tonight at a special ceremony in Trafalgar Square, London.

The Olympic medals, which are presented in recognition of the incredible achievement of outstanding athletes, have been made in Britain and have been designed by British artist David Watkins who is an established artist in the field of decorative art.

Artists were invited to tender by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), having been chosen by arts bodies from across the UK and a panel made up of experienced creative leaders in their field and sports representatives.

When creating this brief LOCOG's Victory Ceremonies team worked closely with the British Museum's Keeper of Coins and Medals, Philip Attwood, to look at the symbolic history of medals in Europe in the last century and in particular medals that held stories that travelled symbolically from the front of the medal to the back.

It was in Europe that the first medals were made in the 15th century and text and images were carefully integrated on both sides.

London 2012 Medals facts

• The Olympic medals are designed especially for each individual Olympic Games by the host city’s organizing committee.

• It was not until the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis that the Games introduced the gold medal as the prize for first place.

• The London 2012 Olympic medals will weigh 375-400g, be 85mm in diameter and 7mm thick.

• The gold medal is made up of 92.5 per cent silver, 1.34 per cent Gold with the remainder copper (a minimum of 6g of gold).

• The silver medal is made up of 92.5 per cent silver with the remainder copper.

• The bronze medal is made up of 97.0 per cent Copper, 2.5 per cent Zinc and 0.5 per cent Tin.

The LOCOG Athletes' Committee, chaired by Jonathan Edwards, were heavily involved in the research development of the medal brief and consulted throughout the selection process.

From this first stage, six artists were selected for the second stage of design and development and asked to develop their designs to create a narrative that went from front to back.

From this the panel felt that David Watkins' design for the London 2012 Olympic medals held a narrative that befitted the athletes achievements with its jewel like depiction of the logo clearly defining the arrival of sport and the Games in London.

Seb Coe, LOCOG Chair, said: "I hope that seeing the design of the London 2012 Olympic medals will be a source of inspiration for the thousands of athletes around the world who are counting down the year before they compete at the greatest show on earth.

"All of our preparations are focused on ensuring the athletes are at the heart of the Games, and I believe that through this rigorous process the panel of experts have selected an artist and a design for medals that all athletes would be proud to own."

IOC President Jacques Rogge added: "Highlighting the effort and achievement of the athletes, as well as the city where the Games are held, these beautiful medals will be a fitting reward for the Olympic medallists of 2012.

"It is the pinnacle of a sporting career to become an Olympic champion but I am confident that receiving one of these medals will make it all the more special in London next year.

"Congratulations to LOCOG for creating a design that will inspire the Olympians of 2012."

The Olympic medals' circular form is a metaphor for the world. The front of the medal always depicts the same imagery at the summer Games - the Greek Goddess of Victory, Nike, stepping out of the depiction of the Parthenon to arrive in the Host City.

"I hope that seeing the design of the London 2012 Olympic medals will be a source of inspiration for the thousands of athletes around the world who are counting down the year before they compete at the greatest show on earth."

Seb Coe, LOCOG Chair

The sport and discipline of the medal-winning athletes will be engraved on the rim of every medal.

David Watkins said: "It is exciting to think that the finest athletes in the world will be wearing my medal design next summer. Its key symbols juxtapose, front and back, the goddess Nike for the spirit and tradition of the Games, and the River Thames for the city of London. I hope the medal will be enjoyed and treasured as a record of great personal achievements in 2012."

The five symbolic elements on the reverse of the London 2012 Olympic medals:

# The dished background suggests a bowl similar to the design of an amphitheatre.

# The core emblem is an architectural expression, a metaphor for the modern City, or as a geological metaphor as a tough crystalline growth which is deliberately jewel like.

# The grid brings both a pulling together and sense of outreach on the design - an image of radiating energy that represents the athletes' achievements and effort.

# The River Thames is a symbol for London and also suggests a fluttering baroque ribbon and adds a sense of celebration.

# The square is the final balancing motif of the design, opposing the overall circularity of the design and emphasising its focus on the centre and reinforcing the sense of 'place' as in a map inset.

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