Medals for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games crafted from electronic waste
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Medals for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games crafted from electronic waste

Embracing the concept of sustainability, Tokyo 2020 has made 5,000 medals for the Games by retrieving metals from used electronic devices.

by Jincy Iype Aug 02, 2019

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) unveiled on July 24, 2019, the design of the premier medals that would be awarded to the athletes at the Games next year. The announcement came exactly a year before the start of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.

The medals that amass and reflect patterns of light are unequivocally Japanese in their design and manufacturing, right from its conception to completion. Interestingly, the medals for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 have been made entirely from recycled metal, crafted from electronic waste donated by the citizens of Japan.

  • Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals (obverse)| Olympic Games| Tokyo 2020 | STIR
    Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals (obverse) Image Credit: Courtesy of Tokyo 2020
  • Medal case design| Olympic Games| Tokyo 2020 | STIR
    Medal case design Image Credit: Courtesy of Tokyo 2020

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medal Design

The organising committee of Tokyo 2020 held a medal design competition (December 2017-January 2018), inviting the public to submit their entries. The panel received more than 400 entries, where Junichi Kawanishi, the director of Japan Sign Design Association and the Osaka Design Society, was announced the winner.

Junichi Kawanishi – the medal designer | Olympic Games| Tokyo 2020 | STIR
Junichi Kawanishi – the medal designer Image Credit: Courtesy of Tokyo 2020

According to the guidelines provided by the International Olympic Committee, each medal features Nike (the winged, Greek goddess of victory), the official name of the Games, and the five interlocked Olympic rings. These medals are hung on ribbons inspired by Japanese design motifs and kimono layering methods, and placed inside distinct circular cases emblazoned with wood fibre patterns.

‘In order to achieve glory, athletes have to strive for victory on a daily basis’ - this concept is exemplified in the design of the medals, resembling rough stones that have been polished, and now shine bright, full of light and brilliance. The design intends to symbolise human diversity, the energy of athletes and their supporters, and to rightly honour sportspeople, their hard work and vigour.

01 min watch Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medal design concept| Olympic Games| Tokyo 2020 | STIR
Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medal design concept Image Credit: Courtesy of Tokyo 2020

The Tokyo 2020 Medal Project

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games conducted the ‘Tokyo 2020 Medal Project’, a first-of-its kind in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, to produce the coveted Olympic medals out of 100 per cent recycled metal.

The committee proposed the recycling of small consumer electronics in order to contribute to an environment friendly and sustainable society, and with a hope to make the project a legacy of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

Over a period of two years (April 2017-March 2019), the project saw great cooperation by the citizens of Japan, in collecting used mobile phones and small electronic gadgets. More than six million devices were gathered from various locations throughout the country, and metal from these raw materials was then carefully dismantled, sorted, extracted and treated, to recover 32 kg of gold, 3,500 kg of silver and 2,200 kg of bronze. In a landmark recycling initiative, approximately 5,000 medals needed for the Games were fashioned entirely from the metal extracted from these donated electronic devices.

02 min watch The process of retrieving metals and manufacturing medals for Tokyo 2020| Olympic Games| Tokyo 2020 | STIR
The process of retrieving metals and manufacturing medals for Tokyo 2020 Image Credit: Courtesy of Tokyo 2020

Apart from the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project, other environment friendly initiatives are also part of the Games; the organising committee is also collecting household and marine plastic waste, which shall be recycled to form the podiums for the award ceremonies; 100 per cent of the electricity to be used in competition venues will come from renewable sources.

The nationwide collection of discarded and obsolete electronic devices by the people of Japan is truly a project that was possible with the participation of everyone across the country. Through this, Japan showed its mettle, with exaggerated effect, as it recycled electronic waste and transformed it into medals of achievement and glory. When the athletes would be adorned with these glistening medals that celebrate them, their countries, and their diligence to sports, they shall also be promoting sustainability and responsibility towards the environment.

  • The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medals - silver (front), gold (back) and bronze (front)| Olympic Games| Tokyo 2020 | STIR
    The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Medals - silver (front), gold (back) and bronze (front) Image Credit: Courtesy of Tokyo 2020
  • 01 min watch The whole Japan came together to make the medal project a success| Olympic Games| Tokyo 2020 | STIR
    The whole of Japan came together to make the medal project a success Image Credit: Courtesy of Tokyo 2020

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About Author

Jincy Iype

Jincy Iype

Iype is a trained architect, who often indulges in writing and amateur photography. She was a cinephile and a melophile even before she knew what those words meant. She is inclined towards architecture journalism, and can usually be found curled up reading a book, or cooking for therapeutic relief.

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