London 2012: Olympic and Paralympic medals to be kept in Tower of London

It houses the Crown Jewels, and now the Tower of London is home to the medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Gold, silver and bronze medals for the London 2012 Games are being kept in the iconic London building for safekeeping.

Today the last of the medals were handed over to Seb Coe, chairman of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG), by Jan du Plessis, chairman of Rio Tinto, the mining company which provided the gold, silver and copper for the medals. The handover at the Tower was watched by 150 children from Tower Hamlets.

The prizes will remain in the vaults at the Tower of London until they are needed for the victory ceremonies.

During the course of the Olympic and Paralympic Games 4,700 medals will be awarded across 805 victory ceremonies.

The arrival of the medals, produced by the Royal Mint in South Wales, at the Tower of London was announced by a fanfare by the trumpeters of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood and attended by the Tower’s famous Yeoman Warders as well as the schoolchildren.

Lord Coe said: “For an athlete, winning an Olympic or Paralympic medal represents the conclusion of thousands of hours of training and reaching the highest level in sport.

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“The victory ceremonies then provide the moment they can truly celebrate their success. It’s great that the London 2012 medals will be kept safe and secure at the Tower of London until then.”

Minister for sport and the Olympics Hugh Robertson, who also attended the ceremony, said: “The Tower of London is iconic. It is the place where things and people are kept safe. We keep the Crown Jewels here. To the athletes competing to win these medals they are as precious as the Crown Jewels, so it is fitting that they should be stored for safe keeping in the same iconic location.”

The medals for the Olympic Games were designed by British artist David Watkins. The Olympic medals’ circular form is a metaphor for the world. The front of the medal always depicts the same imagery at the summer Games - the Greek Goddess of Victory, Nike, stepping out of the depiction of the Parthenon to arrive in the Host City.

Lin Cheung, a practising jewellery artist and senior lecturer in Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martin’s College of Arts and Design, designed the medals for the Paralympic Games.

The front of the Paralympic medal represents ‘Spirit in motion’. The image struck into the obverse surface of the Paralympic medal is an imagined close-up section of an outstretched wing of Goddess of Victory, Nike. This image represents forward flight, power and lightness - a natural metaphor for the spirit of the Paralympic Games.

Rio Tinto provided eight tonnes of gold, silver and copper from its Kennecott Utah Copper mine in Salt Lake City, USA and the Oyu Tolgoi mine in Mongolia to make the medals.

Mr du Plessis said: “Metals from our mines in the mountains of Utah and the deserts of Mongolia have now been transformed into these beautiful gleaming medals. All 65,000 Rio Tinto employees around the world are immensely proud to be playing a small part in the excitement of London 2012.”

The first medals to be awarded will be on the July 28 for the shooting event.