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All That Glitters Is Not Gold
Investigation by reporter uncovers the secret of the medals: they are mostly silver!
By Sean Coffey
Scholastic Kids Press Corps

Sean Coffey and Ben Raich
Sean Coffey with Austrian gold medalist Benjamin Raich at Austria House in Torino, Italy.
(Photo: Courtesy Sean Coffey)
Monday, February 27—Did you know that the Olympic gold medals are actually not made out of real gold? They used to be, but after 1912, Olympic organizers decided to save money and make the medals out of other metals.

Athletes were awarded 252 medals㭐 each of gold, silver and bronze—at the 20th Olympic Winter Games this year. Each medal is made up of at least 92.5 percent pure silver. The gold medals also have six grams of gold plating on the outside.

The medals are roughly 60 millimeters in diameter and three milligrams thick. Each is etched with the name of the Games and a pictogram, or simple drawing, of the sport involved. Also on the medal is the Olympic logo of Torino 2006—a tower of star like images reaching up to the heavens.

What makes these medals unusual is that they have a hole in the middle, representing an Italian piazza, or town center. They look like they were made by a doughnut factory.

I had the privilege of holding a gold medal while at the games. It belonged to the best skiier in the world, Benjamin Raich of Austria. He actually had two gold medals around his neck.

Raich was making a late-night visit to Austria House, his team's headquarters, to celebrate his victories. People were chanting his name as fireworks lit up the air and Raich kissed his medal.

When he handed it to me, it felt heavy in my hand and was kind of cold. Holding it, I suddenly got the sense of how important this medal was. I asked Raich how it felt for him to succeed in such a big way at the Olympics.

"Words can't express how it feels to have a gold medal around your neck," he said. "It's something I've been working at for 10 years. It feels marvelous."


Photos, left to right: © Rick Rickman/NewSport/NewSport/Corbis; © Joe Cavaretta/AP Wide World.