How Much is the Gold in an Olympic Medal Worth?
By now, I’m sure many of you have caught some of the Vancouver Olympics. I was talking to my mom tonight and she thought it would be a good time for me to write about an Olympics Secret — I couldn’t agree more.
Since I live in the US, I’ve been watching the games on NBC. They’ve done a pretty good job of squeezing the excitement into a few hours of prime-time every night. It would be nice if it was all live, all day but they need to pay the bills. NBC estimates they will lose about $200 million broadcasting these games (the difference between what they paid for the exclusive rights and how much advertising time they can sell during the games).
I think the games have gone over really well, maybe better than NBC expected. I was talking to somebody today who was really surprised by their own excitement for these games. They were surprised because the Winter Olympics don’t always get the same hype and attention the summer games do.
I am not surprised; I have been really excited for these Olympics and hold a special place in my heart for the Winter games. I grew up skiing and snowboarding in the Canadian Rocky Mountains and I lived in Calgary during the 1988 Olympics.
I was about 9 years old, but I remember it very clearly. My Dad worked for one of the big corporate sponsors, and he was heavily involved in the support (financial and otherwise) they provided to the games. Because of that, he got to meet a lot of really great people who invited us to the opening and closing ceremonies and almost everything in between.
My brother and I were really lucky kids because we both have a lot of special memories from those games. My brother is a convicted hockey fan, often providing us with his own color commentary that rivals the paid broadcasters for excitement and passion. We saw a lot of hockey at the Olympics and I’m sure that’s what he remembers as the best part of the games.
For me, there’s no doubt I enjoyed the hockey and the other events, but my favorite memory is from a Sunday morning a few weeks before the games began. I had no idea what I was in for when my Dad told my brother and I we were going on a field-trip. After a short drive, we arrived at a small building and found a few other people inside. One of the men greeted us and took us over a table at the side. He picked up a small box and as he opened the box, my eyes got wider and wider.
It was an Olympic Gold Medal.
He could see my excitement and said, “Go ahead, try it on.” I didn’t think he was serious, but he repeated himself. Still in disbelief, I carefully picked it up and placed the ribbon around my neck.
The medal was heavy, really heavy — especially for its size.
It was a thrill. It gave me a buzz that I will never forget. To this day, it’s one of my most memorable experiences.
As I watched the Olympics tonight, they placed a gold medal around US skier Lindsey Vonn’s neck. They played her performance a few hours earlier and she ran an amazing race. It was a very emotional time on the mountain, but as they put the medal around her neck, I couldn’t help noticing how heavy it was.
So, how much gold is really in a gold medal?
The Vancouver Olympic medals weigh between 500 and 576 grams (depending on which medal it is). The International Olympic Committee requires a gold medal to contain at least 6 grams of gold. For Vancouver and Beijing, the gold medals were produced to contain exactly 6 grams of gold, the rest of the medal is mostly silver.
At today’s price of gold, 6 grams is worth $233.45 USD. Using the minimum, there is still another 494 grams of Silver in the medal, putting the total minimum value at about $508 USD. Of course, that’s just the market value of the metal it’s made from. There is obviously some value in the fact that it is an official Olympic medal right?
Yes. In 2004, a Polish athlete auctioned her gold medal for charity, which fetched $82,599 for children with leukemia.
But the true value of a medal cannot be weighed on a scale or bought at an auction. The true value comes from the story that earned the medal and the legacy it commemorates.
Olympic Spirit is a term that you’ve probably heard before and if you’ve never been to the Olympics then it is something that should be on your bucket list.
For athletes, the Olympics are a competition. For spectators, the Olympics are the opposite. Although you want your country to win, you feel the pain and glory that all of the other nations feel when their athletes fail and succeed. It’s a time when we can put aside our differences and celebrate our similarities.
The Olympic Spirit is real. It’s the closest most of us will get to the feeling of winning gold and you can’t put a price on that.
Written By: Chad Upton
Photo: Shazz Mack (creative commons)