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Why are gold medals awarded to winners in the Olympics?

By Finserv MARKETS - Aug 2,2019
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How did the Olympic medals evolve?

It is common knowledge that the top three finishers of each Olympics competition are awarded gold, silver and bronze medals. There was a time when the prize given out to the first place holder used to be 100% gold but now this is hardly the case. Olympic gold medals contain a minimum of 6 grams of gold and are carved out of at least 92.5% silver.Gold is a soft metal and hence it might be scratched and bend very easily. The design and composition of the medals are decided by the organising committee of the host city. The exact diameter of Olympic medals must be 60mm and thickness should be around 3mm. Interestingly from the year 1928 and through 1968, the design showed a generic design by Giuseppe Cassioli, a Florentine artist of Greek Goddess, Nike with a background containing Rome’s Colosseum and text naming the host city. The other side showed another Nike design saluting an Olympic champion.

Well, these medals were not always gold, silver or bronze as the modern use of these metals has been derived from various mythological backdrops and is also due to the rarity, availability and composition of the metal. In addition to supporting the athletes what some countries do is provide money to the winners which depends on the number of medals won.

Here are some interesting facts about the Olympics medal:

  • Dating back to 2,700 years ago, in ancient Greece when the winner was bestowed an olive wreath and a silver medal. Meanwhile, the runners-up received a laurel wreath and a bronze medal.
  • The Olympics Games in Paris revived the style of awards, the winners were awarded cups, trophies and other valuable pieces of art to honour them.
  • In 1904, gold medals were introduced for the first time.

Why are gold medals awarded to winners in the Olympics?

Source: Visual Capitalist

Gold is money

As the economist John Maynard Keyes said that gold is a barbarous relic which suggests that its functionality as money is an artefact of the past. His statement holds true in today’s era of cashless transactions. Gold does not burn into flames or dissipate into the atmosphere. Also, it is rare and that makes it difficult to produce in abundance. To understand why gold, silver and bronze were chosen for first, second and third place needs a bit of a lesson in astronomy, chemistry and geology. Lighter elements are arranged towards the top whereas the heavier ones are at the bottom of the periodic table.

All three share the same characteristics that make them good to create medals. Gold takes the first place and it is one step below silver on the column. Also, elements that are available in abundance are at the top and the rarer ones at the bottom of the table.

In the periodic table, the three metals used in the Olympics are present in the same column and hence they share the same characteristics of good materials from which medals are created.

According to the International Olympic Committee, Olympic gold medals are designed to reflect the history of the prestigious game and the spirit of the participants. Even though the original gold price would have been a lot more and the medal may not be worth its weight in gold, one who earns the medal feels that the reward is priceless and much more valuable.

Gold as a safe investment option

The value of gold changes drastically and gold price movements can be quite large at times. When the economy sours, gold as an investment saves the day. Gold as an investment is far different from buying stocks and bonds. In the case of gold, one can take physical possession either by buying gold coins or bullion.

One can also buy stock in gold futures contracts, gold mining or producing companies and other financial instruments or gold-focused exchange-traded funds. One buys gold coins and bullion at a discount and sells at a premium, hence it is often found that the person does not get market price during selling the same. In the end, gold as an investment, be it physical metal or gold-related securities, should not be taken lightly, most experts suggest that one should not have more than 10% of assets in gold.

To avoid such shortcomings, Finserv MARKETS has created gold accounts that can be accessed digitally. This digital gold feature serves as an emerging digital consumer market while bringing in material transparency in transactions.


Gold has always delivered long-term positive returns and outperformed major asset classes. Investing through Finserv MARKETS gives the assurance of quality as gold is certified by the registered authority. What’s more? There are no hidden charges that you encounter when you invest via Finserv MARKETS.
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