Paris — There’s another metal on offer for winners at the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics. In addition to the customary gold, silver and bronze, each winner’s medal will feature a small piece of iron straight from the Eiffel Tower. Small chunks of the iconic tower — an instantly recognizable symbol of Paris and of France — have been included in the medals to mark 100 years since the City of Light last hosted the Olympic Games.
Organizers unveiled the medals Thursday, just six months before the Paris games are set to get underway.
Every individual medal has at its center a hexagon of iron from the tower. They all come from pieces removed from the structure during different renovations over the last century. The pieces of metal were carefully preserved, and the organization in charge of the Eiffel Tower’s preservation donated them to the Paris Olympic committee to create the unique medal designs.
Jean-François Martins, President of the Société d’Exploitation de la tour Eiffel, said at the unveiling that he hoped the athletes would appreciate the “unforgettable souvenir of Paris” made from “this unique metal.”
The Eiffel Tower is made entirely of a special type of iron known as “puddle” iron. Manufactured in forges and blast furnaces in Lorraine, eastern France, the cast iron produced by reducing iron ore is refined with an operation called “puddling.” By removing the excess carbon still present in cast iron, puddle iron is made into an almost pure material, which is extremely strong.
The tower was erected in 1889 as part of the Universal Exhibition. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, it was originally intended to be a temporary structure, but it captured so much attention that officials decided to keep it standing on the bank of the River Seine.
The Olympic and Paralympic medals were designed by craftworkers at the famous Chaumet House of Jewellery, which is part of the luxury LVMH group. It’s the first time in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that a jeweller has designed the medals.
“The Maison Chaumet creative team has conceived each medal as a jewel, taking inspiration from the Parisian craftsmanship of its legendary Place Vendôme workshops and illustrating the vocation shared by all the Houses in our group: the ability to make people dream,” said Antoine Arnault, of LVMH Image & Environment. “We hope that each athlete will enjoy wearing and admiring the medal as much as we enjoyed creating it for them.”
“A symbol of excellence, a source of motivation, of surpassing oneself and of ultimate achievement, medals are much more than objects: They represent the apotheosis in the career of elite athletes,” said Tony Estenguet, President of Paris 2024. “Their power to fascinate and inspire goes far beyond the circle of athletes.”
Estenguet also noted that the Paris 2024 organizers had said from the start that they wanted to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games closer together. The torch design is the same for both and, to continue that philosophy, the medals for both Games share a common face, the side with the hexagon of iron from the tower.
The other side is different. The Olympic medals feature the goddess of victory, Nike, emerging from the Panathenaic Stadium, where the Olympic Games were revived in 1896. In a nod to 2024, the Eiffel Tower is seen in the background, along with the Acropolis.
The Paralympic medals feature a low-angle view under the Eiffel Tower. In keeping with the spirit of inclusion in the Games, the inscriptions “Paris” and “2024” are written in universal Braille — the script invented by Frenchman Louis Braille. And to ensure the three different metals can be distinguished by touch, lines are engraved on the edge of each medal, I for gold, II for silver and III for bronze.
The design of Olympic medals has become standardized to a degree, with each featuring the goddess Nike and the Olympic rings, as well as the name of the games in question and the discipline or sport concerned. Each organizing committee is free to adapt the primary design and choose a unique design for the reverse side, however. There is no standardization of the Paralympic medals.
The Paris 2024 Olympic Games will run from July 26 until Aug. 11, and the Paralympic Games from Aug. 28 through Sept. 8.