Winners of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games won’t just make history—they’ll be bringing a piece of it back home with them. The medals for the upcoming games in Paris will feature pieces of iron taken from the Eiffel Tower, as unveiled today (Feb. 8) by the game’s organizers.
“We wanted these medals to be truly unique, to bear the Paris 2024 signature,” said Tony Estanguet, president of the Paris Olympics organizing committee, in a statement. “To achieve this, we married the strongest symbol of the Games, the medal, with the ultimate symbol of Paris and France around the world, the Eiffel Tower.”
Included on the back of the gold, silver and bronze medals, the iron pieces will be stripped of their brown paint, reshaped into hexagons to represent the outline of France and set with claws mirroring the Eiffel Tower’s rivets. The fragments slated to be incorporated into the medals were collected during past renovations to the monument, which was originally erected for the 1889 Universal Exhibition.
The 2024 Paris Olympics and Paralympics medals were designed by Chaumet, the 244-year-old French jewelry company that once counted Gustave Eiffel, the engineer behind the iconic tower, as one of its clients. Chaumet’s parent company is LVMH (LVMHF), the luxury conglomerate owned by billionaire Bernard Arnault and one of the largest sponsors for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Chaumet’s involvement marks “the first time in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games that a jeweler has designed the medals,” said Antoine Arnault, one of Arnault’s children and LVMH’s head of communications and image, in a statement. The medals will be produced by the Paris Mint, which also manufactured the medals for the 1924 Paris Games.
Eiffel’s Tower has been incorporated into the medal design in several ways
In an effort to bring the Olympic and Paralympic Games closer together, the medals for both games share one face—specifically, the reverse side adorned with the pieces of the Eiffel Tower. The ribbons attached to the medals will be decorated with a pattern inspired by the crosspieces of the tower.
The fronts of both medals will also incorporate the tower in their designs. For the Olympic awards, the tower will be depicted alongside Nike, the goddess of victory, and the Acropolis of Athens. The Paralympic medal will incorporate a low-angle view of the Eiffel Tower alongside “Paris” and “2024” written out in universal Braille in a nod to both accessibility for athletes with visual impairments and the writing system’s French inventor Louis Braille. Its edges will be engraved with lines referencing each medal’s placement—one for gold, two for silver and three for bronze.
The evolution of Olympic medal design
Since the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, several rules have governed the design and production of Olympic medals. Between 1928 and 1972, Giuseppe Cassioli’s Trionfo design was the standard, used with only slight variations. But after more than four decades of medals that only varied by Olympic host and numeral, organizing committees began to create their own designs, often incorporating unique elements of the host nation’s culture.
The German Olympic Committee of 1928 was the first to vary the design on the reverse face of the medal, while the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain was the first to award medals with an updated front face.
Like France, some nations have incorporated materials with cultural significance into medals. The medals given out at the Beijing 2008 Games were inlaid with a piece of jade, while those awarded during the Tokyo 2021 Games were created with metal extracted from recycled consumer waste collected across Japan. And the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games used ribbons featuring gapsa, a traditional South Korean fabric.
Other committees have updated the shape of the medal itself. The Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Games produced medals designed to resemble river rocks found in Utah’s streams, while medals given out during the Turin 2006 Games contained a space in the center to resemble the Italian piazza.