Olympic Rings: Not just Five Interlocking Circles

Dec. 06, 2018, 12 a.m. (ET)

When the United States Olympic team boards the plane in Tokyo to return to the USA in the summer of 2020 after the Olympic Games, more than 100 athletes will have their Olympic medals firmly in hand, around their necks or packed in bags.

In 2016, Team USA won 121 medals and hopes to do even better in 2020. The size of our summer Olympic team swelled to more than 600 athletes with the addition of five new sports set to debut in Tokyo. So it’s likely we will out-perform 2016 numbers.

So what of the 400+ athletes who won’t bring home the gold (or silver or bronze)? They’ll be bringing home an Olympic ring.

In addition to memories they will cherish forever, all Team USA members are awarded a [official gold] ring they can wear to forever memorialize their achievement of having represented the United States on the biggest international stage on Earth: the Olympic Games.

With a population of over 300 million people in the U.S., just making the team in any sport is a significant achievement. Athletes sacrifice years of their lives training in their chosen sport. This pursuit of excellence in mind, body and spirit has always been considered a noble endeavor. The US Olympic Committee recognizes this and awards each athlete and coach an Olympic ring; a piece of jewelry similar to those won by champions in other sports, like the World Series or Super Bowl.

The rings are unique to each Olympic Games. They may be huge or understated, but almost always yellow gold with the Games symbol, the year of the Games and often the individual sport logo for each athlete. Sometimes athletes customize their rings with diamonds or white gold instead of yellow. These rings are limited edition, provided only to Team USA members and prized by collectors.

Sizing and customization requests are done during team processing before a Games begins. Team processing is done just before athletes depart for the Games. This is the time when everyone receives all the cool gear worn at Opening ceremonies and during the games themselves. Olympic athletes receive SWAG (stuff we all get) valued in excess of $10,000, typically from sponsors. Last thing athletes do during team processing is to get sized for a ring which will be produced and delivered to them after the conclusion of the Games.

So while every athlete competes to bring home that coveted gold, silver or bronze medal - and many will - each member of Team USA can count on some gold: a keepsake they can treasure and pass on to family or friends as a momento of one of the greatest journeys of their lives.