What has become evident in Sochi so far is that Vladimir Putin is a size queen. The ‘biggest’ rules the day, Even if it doesn’t win the gold. The biggest number of events, the biggest number of medals, the biggest contingent of Russian athletes, the biggest number of new venues and supporting infrastructure (which also made for the biggest Olympic waste dump), the biggest number of nations participating, . . . sounds like someone has an inferiority complex. Or the biggest megalomaniacal leader.
Putin thought his country’s gold medals would clock in as the biggest too at 531 grams, but the Turin Games’ medals were 107mm in diameter, making them 3mm larger than Sochi’s. Ouch! That’s gotta hurt. No problemo. Russia still claims a win for putting on an Olympic Games at the biggest cost. And that’s not including the wages to construction laborers that weren’t paid, which the IOC had to step in and make good on. Which I guess counts as the biggest, “My bad!”
Medal wise, Putin still comes up as a shorty though. The Sochi Winter Olympic gold medal’s “podium value” clocks in at approximately $566, a 20% decline from the record $708 value for the gold medals presented at the London Games. And they are not made of gold either. Or not much. Only 5 grams of their total weight is gold. The rest is silver, the same amount as in the silver medals which are valued at $323. And if you win a bronze, pawning it back home would only net you a whopping $3.25. Which really sucks. Not only is your medal worthless, but when you tell people about your big win they go, “Oh. Only a bronze, huh?”
The Sochi 2014 medals also use a transparent polycarbonate material in their deign, which, according to the Russians gives them a sense of lightness. Yup, using less gold and more polycarbonates will do that. Their main design feature is a “Patchwork Quilt” – a mosaic of national designs from the various cultures and ethnic groups that make up the Russian Federation. Or at least those still part of the Russian Federation. The design also reflects the landscape of Sochi, with its snowy peaks and sandy beaches. Each medal took up to 18 hours to create and, because of the record number of sporting events this year, over 1,300 medals were made.
There’s also a special bonus for the ten Olympians who win gold on February 15th. Special commemorative medals have been minted with bits of the Chelyabinsk meteorite that hit Russia in 2013 embedded in them. “We will hand out our medals to all the athletes who will win gold on that day, because both the meteorite strike and the Olympic games are global events,” says Alexei Betekhtin, Chelyabinsk region culture minister. Um, I guess that’s to commemorate the widespread damage caused by the meteorite that injured more than 1,000 people in the Chelyabinsk area.
Back on 2/15/2013, the asteroid explosion over Russia released as much energy as an estimated 500,000 tons of TNT, sending a shockwave twice around the globe. A 5-foot-long fragment of the meteorite was later hauled up from icy Lake Chebarkul in the Urals in central Russia. Those Olympians coming in at the top in the men’s 1500-meter speed skating, women’s 1000-meter and men’s 1500m short track, the women’s cross-country skiing relay, the men’s K-125 ski jump, the women’s super giant slalom, and the men’s skeleton will each receive one of the special gold medals.
As will 40 private collectors who’ll snap up the additional ‘cosmic medals’ being made in honor of the one-year anniversary of the meteor’s fall. That should help Russia out in making good on what is the biggest Olympic cost-over run in the history of the Games.