Olympic Medals

In 2003, before the Olympic Games in Athens of 2004, the International Olympic Committee announced an international competition to replace a drawing by Italian artist Giuseppe Cassioli depicting the seated Goddess Niki against the backdrop of the Colosseum, a Roman monument unrelated to country of Games. For the first time, the main face of the medals was to be changed since the Olympic Games in Amsterdam in 1928. The aim of the redesign was for the medals to reflect and remind the Greek origin and identity of the Olympic Games that began in Ancient Olympia in 776 BC and revived in 1896 at the Panathenaic Stadium. On July 2 2003, presented in Prague, by the president of “Athens 2004” Gianna Angelopoulou, was the permanent face of the medals, as decided by the International Olympic Committee. The design was created by Elena Votsi and the decision was pivotal, as the medals have since reflected the Greekness of the Games through the centuries.

The main face, which will adorn the medals of all the upcoming Olympic Games, depicts the statue of the Victory of Peony (421 BC) that was placed in the Temple of Zeus in ancient Olympia. In the background, one can see the Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympic Games were revived, and the Parthenon temple. The second side of the Athens medal, that will be changing according to the respective host country, is a combination of three elements: The eternal flame that lights up in Olympia, the first verses of the 8th ode of Pindar and finally the emblem of the Olympic Games of “Athens 2004”. The designer’s concept derived from the deep knowledge of the ancient symbols that can convey the meaning of the Games and their Greekness over time:

The flame. Timeless symbol of the Olympic Games, represents the Olympic values of noble rivalry, fair play, and truce between peoples.

The tripod. The metal base that accommodates the flame, served as a hearth of fire, and where the olive wreaths were placed. Many similar emblems have been found in ancient Olympia. It was chosen as a symbol because it directly links the Olympic flame with the Olympic Games.

Poem of Pindar. The eighth ode of Pindar praises the victory of Alcimedon from Aegina in wrestling, in the Olympic Games of 460 BC. The goal was to capture the letters of the Greek alphabet, symbols known and recognizable, of high historical value, as they have expressed international and timeless cultural concepts, such as Democracy, Philosophy, etc. Greek words that retain their roots in many other languages, connecting the Greek language with the birth of civilization.

Elena Votsi herself, both as an artist and as Greek, thinks of the redesign of the Olympic medals to be the most important moment of her career, while she considers it an honor for the front of the medals to bear her signature for all the upcoming Olympic Games, allowing for her artistic creation to become a part of history.

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