To mark one year to go to the London 2012 Olympic Games, the London 2012 Olympic medals were unveiled to the world on Wednesday night by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal, and London 2012 Organising Committee Chair Seb Coe, in the presence of IOC President Jacques Rogge and Coordination Commission Chairman Denis Oswald at a special ceremony in Trafalgar Square, London.
The Olympic medals, which are presented in recognition of the incredible achievement of outstanding athletes, will be 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 Games 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 fifteenth century and text and images were carefully integrated on both sides. 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 said: ‘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 Parthenon to arrive in the Host City.
The design for the reverse of the London 2012 Olympic medals contains five main symbolic elements:
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.
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 independent panel selecting the medal design and advising LOCOG was chaired by Sir John Sorrell (Co-Chair, the Sorrell Foundation) with Ade Adepitan (Paralympian & TV presenter) as deputy chair and Iwona Blazwick OBE (Director of the Whitechapel Gallery), Sir Mark Jones (V&A Director & medals expert), Catherine Johnson (writer) and Martin Green (LOCOG Head of Ceremonies).
Sir John Sorrell said: ‘The design is dynamic, full of energy and makes ingenious use of the 2012 symbol. It is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship with a crystalline, jewel-like quality.’
Iwona Blazwick OBE, Director, Whitechapel Gallery, said: ‘The wealth of submissions for the Olympic medal design showed the incredible range of both artistic and design genius that we have in London. Artists, architects and designers all successfully met the challenge of incorporating the iconic emblems of the Greek Goddess of Victory and London 2012. David Watkins’ dynamic crystalline design which fuses geometry with vitality is an outstanding and worthy winner for the Olympic Games. We anticipate the unveiling of the winning design for the Paralympic Games later this year being equally exciting.’
In 2012 more than 2,100 Olympic medals will be presented in 302 Olympic victory ceremonies in more than 30 venues over 16 days of competition.
The ore for the medals is supplied by London 2012 sponsor Rio Tinto and is mined at Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Utah Copper Mine near Salt Lake City in America, as well as from the Oyu Tolgoi project in Mongolia.
The medals will go into production later this year at Royal Mint’s headquarters in Llantrisant, South Wales.
The design and designer of the London 2012 Paralympic medals will be announced by the team later this year.