Winners Got Silver Medals at the First Modern Olympic Games in 1896

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As the Summer Olympics in Paris approach, the excitement builds. A silver medal from the 1896 games recently sold for almost $112,000. The auction by RR Auction on January 18 also featured various other Olympic memorabilia, such as the torch from the 1980 Winter Olympics, a safety lantern from the 1964 Summer Olympics, and a ticket to the 1908 London Games.

The Unique Medal of the 1896 Athens Olympics

Crafted for the inaugural modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, the silver medal marked a departure from today’s gold-centric tradition. Winners were honored with silver medals, not the gold ones synonymous with modern Olympic triumphs. Meanwhile, second-place finishers received bronze medals, and third-place contenders were left without a medal.

Sculpted by French artist Jules-Clément Chaplain, the nearly 130-year-old silver medal showcases a relief portrait of Zeus cradling the goddess of victory, Nike. The word “Olympia” graces the left side, while the reverse side features the Acropolis in Athens, accompanied by the inscription “International Olympic Games in Athens, 1896” in raised Greek characters.

The Magnificence of the 1896 Athens Olympic Medals

Bobby Livingston, the executive vice president of the auction house, lauds the silver medal as “a magnificent and historic artifact that captures the essence of the birth of the modern Olympic Games.”

In addition to the silver medal, a bronze second-place medal from the 1896 Athens Games was also auctioned for $55,000. Designed by Chaplain, this medal, still housed in its original leather case lined with velvet, stands as another testament to the enduring significance of the early Olympic era.

Paris Prepares for the Upcoming Event

In anticipation of this year’s global athletic gathering in Paris, athletes worldwide will converge to compete in over 300 events spanning a diverse range, from surfing and road cycling to rugby. Meanwhile, Parisian leaders are diligently preparing the city for the imminent influx of athletes and tourists.

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Notably, a significant facet of this preparation is a $1.5 billion initiative aimed at revitalizing the River Seine. Officials envision utilizing the cleaned-up river for Olympic swimming events and the grand spectacle of the opening ceremony.