A Brief History Of: Olympic Medals

Greg Baker

More than 10,000 athletes will participate in the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing, where they'll run and swim and jump their way to some 3,000 medals. Each of them will be searching for gold. Barring that, they'll begrudgingly take silver or bronze. For while outwardly they may profess joy in the spirit of athletic competition, inwardly they all desire the same thing: a hunk of metal around their neck.

The ancient Greeks, whose Olympiads can be traced back to 776 B.C., didn't give out medals but rather bestowed olive wreaths upon their victors. The medal tradition began with the...

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