There is an idiom in Japanese that says “dumplings over flowers” — referring to someone who prefers substance over style.
While the medal designs for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 certainly have a sense of style, it’s the meaning and symbolism of the designs that really stands out more than their sparkle.
The result of an open competition involving over 400 entries, the designs finally were revealed to the public on Wednesday, one year out from the start of the Games. The medals look different at first glance, having a thick and textured appearance as opposed to the flatter discs at recent summer Games.
The medals are intended to represent stones that were once rough but have been polished so that they now shine with “light” and “brilliance” — an overall theme of the design. The obverse of each medal has, per International Olympic Committee regulations, the Olympic rings, the name of the Games and Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. On the back, the stone’s surface swirls around the official Tokyo 2020 emblem which is placed on a smooth inset.
Each medal captures and reflects light differently, symbolizing the energy that athletes bring to their sport and also the “warm glow” of friendship that unites people enjoying the Games all over the world. The polished stone design is meant to convey a world in which hard work becomes a reward.
Each medal also comes with a case made from Japanese ash and hangs on a ribbon meant to recall the designs of Japanese kimonos.
But there’s more to these medals than meets the eye. Each was made from recycled materials, primarily scrap metals retrieved from old electronic devices donated by the people of Japan. Thirty-two kilograms of gold, 3,500 kilograms of silver and 2,200 kilograms of copper and zinc for the bronze medals were collected.
Winning designer Junichi Kawanishi said in a press release that it was a “great honor” to have his design selected.
“With their shining rings, I hope the medals will be seen as paying tribute to the athletes' efforts, reflecting their glory and symbolizing friendship,” he said.