Olympics committee urges athletes to stop biting gold medals made from recycled mobile phones

Athletes just can’t get enough of the taste of gold, despite reminder from Tokyo 2020 organisers that ‘medals are not edible’

Bevan Hurley
Monday 02 August 2021 11:13
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It’s become a familiar sight on the Olympic podium: the victorious athlete, fresh from hearing their national anthem and seeing their flag hoisted high, just can’t seem to resist taking a bite on their gold medal.

The habit has led to plenty of bemusement on social media, and prompted a tongue-in-cheek reminder from the Tokyo 2020 organising committee that the spoils of victory are not supposed to be eaten.

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“We just want to officially confirm that the #Tokyo2020 medals are not edible,” the official Tokyo 2020 Twitter account wrote on Sunday.

“Our medals are made from material recycled from electronic devices donated by the Japanese public. So, you don’t have to bite them ... but we know you still will.”

Among the athletes to sink their teeth into their haul in Tokyo have been Team USA’s Anastasija Zolotic, who won gold in the 57kg taekwondo; Ryan Murphy, after he powered to first place in the Men’s 100m Backstroke Final; and British diver Tom Daley.

It begs the question: why do athletes feel the urge to bite their medals?

The answer appears to be two-fold. Traditionally, anyone wanting to check on the purity of gold has bitten into it, as the metal is soft and malleable, and teeth marks will leave an imprint.

Not that a bitemark would leave much of a mark on the 2021 Olympic medals, which are thought to contain just over one per cent gold, with the rest made up of silver and copper.

In the modern Olympic setting, it seems to be more about creating that iconic moment for the cameras.

“It’s become an obsession with the photographers,” Olympic historian David Wallechinsky told CNN.

“I think they look at it as an iconic shot, as something that you can probably sell. I don’t think it’s something the athletes would probably do on their own.”

The biting craze took hold at the 2016 Rio Games, and despite the best efforts of IOC bosses in Tokyo shows no sign of slowing down.

In Tokyo, all of the metals are created from recycled mobile phones and devices that were donated by the Japanese public.

Dubbed the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project, the roughly 5,000 gold, silver and bronze medals to be given out at the games were extracted from the metals of small electronic devices.

“We hope that our project of recycling small consumer electronics and our efforts to contribute to an environmentally-friendly and sustainable society will form part of the legacy of the Tokyo 2020 Games,” the organising committee said.

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