Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Olympics As Teaching Tool - Going For The Gold

Source: London 2012
Even as NBC has faced a barrage of Twitter wrath for its time-delayed airings and its occasional promo spoilers, the fourth-placed network has enjoyed record ratings for its broadcast of the London 2012 Olympics. As the games of the 30th Olympiad draw to a close, we admit it -- we’ve been glued to the coverage. Sometimes we've opted for web-streams or real-time results. Other times, we've hibernated and waited for the prime-time showings. Either way, the medal race has lived up to the hype, with the United States and China trading the top spot, and the home nation of Britain fighting with Russia for a surprising third-place finish. The medal ceremonies, in particular, have stirred patriotic passions. The London medals themselves seem noticeably larger than in past years. They stand out in heft and diameter on the athletes’ necks. We did a little digging, and we were intrigued to learn that the history of the Olympic medal can teach a lot about media literacy, financial literacy, and global cultures.

Source: Complex
The Bottom Line financial report has verified that in Olympic history, this year’s creations are indeed the heaviest emblems, weighing in at a hefty 400 grams (twice the load of the Beijing 2008 badge). But, in a post-recession economy, these “gold” medals are actually comprised of 92.5% silver and just 1.34% gold (only six grams of golden veneer). The rest is copper. That means, given today’s commodity markets, the silver in the first-place medal for the first time is worth more than the actual gold content. Of course, the true valuation of an Olympic medal cannot be accurately calculated. Legendary memorabilia often fetch many thousands of dollars on the auction block. The last pure-gold medal was Stockholm 1912 ($1,207).

Classically, the first gold medal was bestowed in 1904 (following olive wreaths and then silver for first place). The award remained largely unchanged until 1972. Each year's design typically features common elements on the front face, such as Nike (the Greek goddess of victory), the Colosseum or (more accurately) the Panathenaiko, the famous rings, and the horse-drawn chariot. The rest has recently been up to the inspiration of each host city. Many modern incarnations have featured cultural flourishes or geo-specific engravings. Beijing 2008 even included a slice of jade inlay.

The London medals were designed by David Watkins and for safe-keeping were vaulted (where else?) in the Tower of London next to the Crown Jewels. For a meticulous retrospective of each year's golden pattern, check out the collection at The Olympic Design.

Personally, our historic favorites are the delicate Rome 1960, the iconic Athens 2004, and the brawny Torino 2006:

Source: The Olympic Design




Our least favorites are the sharp Sarajevo 1984, the glacial Albertville 1992, and the cumulonimbal Nagano 1998:

Source: The Olympic Design





For other ideas about teaching with Olympic logos or mascots, check out our earlier post.

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