Monthly Archives: February 2010

Famous Awards – Olympic Medal

With the 2010 Winter Olympics upon us, it may be time to look back at the history of what the competitors will be all striving for – the Olympic Medal.  

The 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, are already a distant memory for most people. But the medal-winning athletes who participated have a daily and permanent reminder of their great feats: their Olympic medals.


Even at the first modern Olympiad in 1896, organizers realized the power of a beautiful medal. The first-place winners were given silver medals instead of gold, but they didn’t mind–after all, the winners of the second Olympic Games were given pieces of modern art as their prize! That ended quickly at the next Games when the medal presentation was revived, and since then the Olympic medals have been a symbol of international dedication and sportsmanship – on and off the field.

It is impossible to say how many medals have been given out over the years, says Barbara Gresham, senior media coordinator at the U.S. Olympic Committee, because the way the medals are distributed has changed. For instance, today swimmers participating in preliminary qualifying rounds of medal-winning relay teams are awarded a medal even if they don’t swim in the final event. Similarly, the entire basketball team now gets medals, whereas only players who actually saw court time in the medal-winning game used to receive them.

The host country is responsible for the design and production of the athlete’s medals. As the next host city prepares to host the Games, American firms are gearing up to present their designs to the organizing committee, which generally holds a contest to find the best and most creative medal design.

A Pressured Situation
It is a long and very detailed process. The manufacturer begins the actual production in January and delivers the medals in May. Sent in the shipment were 604 gold, 604 silver and 630 bronze medals.

The production process begins with a three-dimensional clay model of both the front and back of the medal. The front of each medal was the same, but the backs were customized with a pictogram depicting each sport’s athlete in action. Thirty-one different models had to be made for the backsides. “It was modeled three times the actual size.” “You can get it a little more accurate when you pantograph it down (that way).”

Plaster-rubber molds were then made with an epoxy that is easily pantographed. To make the dies, the mold was taken to the pantograph machine, where the design was reduced to actual size – 70 millimeters in diameter (2 3/4 inch) and 5 millimeters thick (3/8 inch – and traced into steel. The resulting steel hubs are actually positive replications of the models. The die is then made from the hubs.

To make the medals, the front and back dies are stamped together. “They’re not struck so much as they are squeezed.” The dies come together under 1,000 tons per inch of pressure. “It’s an incredible amount of power; each piece had to be resqueezed three times to get the detail up into the die.” To ensure a perfect match with the die before being resqueezed, each medal was individually placed and checked by hand as it lay in the die.

Making the gold medal was harder than the others. There are very strict guidelines for the materials used; the gold medal must be made out of sterling silver and contain at a minimum 6 grams of pure gold. One of the most difficult things to do technically was the gold medal. It’s a sandwich of gold with sterling (inside). It had to be centered (and struck) at a specific temperature so the metals would bond. Just gold plating the silver wouldn’t have been enough gold. It has to be clad and then gold plated because of the silver (edges).

Each medal was engraved on the edge with the event name. Medals were then polished and drilled for ribbon holes. The ribbon holder was soldered in place, the embroidered ribbon attached and then the medals were placed into special presentation cases.

The Gold (and Silver and Bronze) Standard
The International Olympic Committee has strict guidelines on the production of the Olympic medals. According to the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Gresham, the medals must be at least 60 millimeters in diameter and 3 millimeters thick. The silver in both the gold and silver medals must be at least 925-1000 grade, the gold medal must have at least 6 grams of pure gold and the bronze medal must be pure bronze.

All medal designs must be approved by the games’ organizing committee, the country’s Olympic committee, and finally the International Olympic Committee’s Executive Board. Although the Winter Games haven’t had a consistent standard design on either the front or the back, “The summer medals’ design has been basically the same since 1928 on the front,” says Gresham. “The organizing committee can add a personal design on the rear.” This unique design element usually reflects the character of the city and country where the Games are being held.

The main figure is Lady Victory holding a wreath over her head and carrying palm leaves. The ancient Olympic stadium in Greece is in the background with a horse-drawn chariot in front of it. The front is finished with the image of a Grecian urn and the official Olympic rings. The date and place of the games also appears on the front.

For the Atlanta games the focus of the medals’ rear was a quilt of leaves to symbolize both the host city of Atlanta and the spirit of the Olympic games. Quilt-making is a long-time Southern tradition and quilts are a symbol of unity, a marriage of nations and cultures blended together, a continuing theme of the Olympics. The leaves woven into the quilt both reflect Atlanta – known as the City of Trees – and Olympic history – in the past, a crown of olive leaves went to the victors. The pictograms of athletes on the back were designed to look like ancient Greek urn paintings.

The Post-Medal Life
The manufacturer also made 60,000 commemorative solid bronze medals, which were given to all participating athletes, sponsors, officials and others involved in creating the 1996 Summer Games. There were 271 medal events in Atlanta, in contrast to the recent 1998 Nagano Winter Games, in which there were only 68. The U.S. Olympics Committee restricts American athletes from using their medals in advertising; the designers and manufacturers of the medals are similarly restrained.

The medals for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games won’t be identical to Atlanta’s striking medals, but one similarity is sure to occur: The medals will bring the same feelings of joy, amazement and pride to the medal-winning athletes and their countries.
© 1998, Awards and Recognition Association

Famous Awards – The Championship Ring

It is funny to hear someone who apparently has everything: millions of dollars; athletic greatness; national and international recognition and adulation state “all I want is a ring” before I retire.  The ring they speak of is the Super Bowl Championship Ring that is awarded to the individuals from the team that wins the National Football League’s Super Bowl.  The rings are awarded to the players, coaches and team personnel affiliated with the winning team of the NFL’s BIG GAME.


These rings are typically made of yellow or white gold with diamonds. They usually include….

…the team name, team logo, and Super Bowl number (usually indicated in Roman numerals). Most of the rings also have larger diamonds or diamonds made into the shape of the trophy, that represent the number of Super Bowls that franchise has won (thus, Pittsburgh’s 2005 ring has five trophies, representing the five Super Bowls they have won).

The NFL pays up to $5,000.00 per ring, with up to 150 rings per team. If the rings are over the $5,000 limit, the team owners must make up the difference.

Recent rings have been appraised in excess of $20,000 but manufacturers keep this information confidential. Each year a number of manufacturers submit proposed ring designs to the winning teams management with an estimated cost. From these submissions the team selects the ring that will become that year’s symbol of athletic excellence in American football.

The most Super Bowl rings won to date is Seven, won by Neal Dahlen. Mr. Dahlen won five with the 49ers (Staff and Player Personnel) and two with the Denver Broncos (General Manager). The second most is Six, won by Conditioning coach Mike Woicik. Mike won three with the Dallas Cowboys and three with the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick currently has five and with the next win allowing him to join this elite group.

A number of better known players and coaches currently hold five rings. This list includes: Dan Rooney, Dick Hoak, Joe Greene, Charles Haley, Chuck Noll, Bill Belichick, Romeo Crennel, George Seifert, and Pepper Johnson. Each have five Super Bowl Rings. Rooney won each as an executive with the Pittsburgh Steelers, for which Hoak was running backs coach for all five championships. Also for the Steelers, defensive tackle Greene won four as a player and one as the Steelers’ special assistant for player personnel

Twenty-two players have won four rings, among them Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Rocky Bleier, Donnie Shell, and Mike Webster, each won four Super Bowl rings with the Steelers. Joe Montana, Keena Turner, Jesse Sapolu, Eric Wright, and Ronnie Lott each won four Super Bowl rings with the 49ers. Kicker Adam Vinatieri won three with the Patriots and one with the Indianapolis Colts. Ted Hendricks won three with the Raiders and one with the Colts. Bill Romanowski won two with the 49ers and two with the Denver Broncos. Coach Charlie Weis won one with the Giants and three with the Patriots. Matt Millen has the most rings from different teams, two with the Oakland Raiders, one with the 49ers, and one with the Washington Redskins. These numbers will obviously change with time

To view designs from all of the past Super Bowl rings please visit the following link

Special thanks to for information contributed to this posting.

Famous Awards – Lombardi Trophy

What Dat?  Dat is the Super Bowl trophy won by the New Orleans Saints last night.   It started in 1966 on a cocktail napkin–a humble beginning for the Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy, one of the world’s most prestigious sports awards. The scene was a luncheon attended by both Pete Rozelle, then-commissioner of the National Football League, and a vice president of a prominent Jeweler in New York, N.Y.


The jeweler sketched it extremely quickly. “And that sketch became an icon of modern-day sports–the symbol for what no one knew at the time would be one of today’s most popular sporting events.”

The first Super Bowl, called the AFL/NFL World Championship Game, was played in January following the 1966 football season. At that time, the game was a contest between the champions of the National Football League and the American Football League. Around the third championship game, the media started calling it the Super Bowl, a title coined by Lamar Hunt, owner of the Kansas City Chiefs and founder of the AFL. He thought of the name after seeing his daughter playing with a toy rubber ball called a superball.

After Super Bowl IV, the two leagues merged into one under the NFL name, with teams divided into two conferences: the National Football Conference (NFC) and the American Football Conference (AFC). The Super Bowl is now a match between the two conference champions.

Test of Time
The actual design of the Super Bowl trophy was nearly identical to the first sketch. And since the first one was made in 1966, that design hasn’t changed one iota. “That’s one of the secrets of the trophy’s success and durability”. “It’s always been the same, which makes it instantly recognizable.”
It was dubbed the Vince Lombardi Trophy in 1970, just before Super Bowl V. Lombardi–who died of cancer on Sept. 3, 1970, at the age of 57–was a well respected coach who had led the Green Bay Packers to victory in the first two Super Bowls.

The trophy is a perfect blend of modern and traditional. Made entirely of sterling silver, it depicts a regulation football atop what resembles an elongated kicking tee–a plinth with three tapered, concave sides. “It’s a traditional football, modernized by the sculpted triangular base”. At least 72 hours of labor are required each year to manufacture the trophy. “It’s done entirely by hand”. “It’s hand spun, hand assembled, hand hammered into the base, hand engraved and hand chased.”

Because the trophy uses a heavy gauge of silver that is difficult to bend and shape, the manufacturing process demands great expertise. First a spinner places onto a lathe a wooden chuck carved into the shape of half a football. A thick sheet of silver is placed on the chuck. With forming tools, it’s spun until it assumes the shape of the chuck. After both halves are formed, they are soldered together to form the ball. “They are joined so perfectly that there’s no evidence of a seam.” Then a silversmith hand chases the seams and laces onto the ball so that it resembles an actual football. The base is formed from sheet stock, which is hand hammered and soldered. The football is attached by a silver rod that comes up through the base and is secured by silver nuts and bolts. “It has to be sturdy enough to hold up under handling by those ‘little’ football players.” During the manufacturing process, the trophy must be annealed five or six times because the repeated hammering hardens the surface. The annealing loosens the bonding of the molecules in the silver, allowing it to be shaped.

After the trophy is complete, the NFL symbol and the Super Bowl number are hand engraved into a sheet stock of silver, which is applied to the base. When finished, the Lombardi stands 20-3/4 inches tall and weighs about seven pounds. And while it’s officially valued at $10,000 (1998), it’s a priceless symbol of hard-earned victory for the players and their fans. “The trophies are a great source of pride here,” says Ann Dabeck, administrative assistant for the Green Bay Packers, who won trophies from the first two Super Bowls, as well as the 1996 championship.

Taking It Home
Green Bay is one of only 12 teams in the NFL–out of a total of 30–that has earned the title of Super Bowl champion. Of those 12, eight are multiple winners. The Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers tie for the most wins with five apiece. Immediately following a Super Bowl victory, the NFL Commissioner presents the winning team with the trophy. Sometimes it is slightly damaged in the champagne celebration. “We always have an extra in case a catastrophe occurs, but so far nothing major has ever happened.” The trophy is then returned to the manufacturer for any repairs and the engraving of the team names and the final score onto the base. Then it goes back to the team for permanent possession.

The teams are free to display the trophies where they want, so they end up in a variety of places. Until recently, Green Bay’s trophy from Super Bowl I was on display at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. Now the Hall of Fame has a copy of the trophy, while all three of the Packer’s awards are housed behind glass in the entrance of its administrative offices, next to its pro shop. The number of fans who come to see the trophies increased greatly after the team’s 1996 win, Dabeck says.

The Dallas Cowboys’ five Lombardis are on public display only once a year at the State Fair of Texas in Dallas. The rest of the year they are kept in the office of Jerry Jones, the team’s owner. The 49ers display their five awards in the lobby of the team’s administrative offices in Santa Clara, Calif. The team’s marketing department occasionally takes the trophies on “field trips” such as luncheons and other promotional events.
Only one championship team doesn’t have its original trophy. The Baltimore Colts (who moved to Indianapolis in 1984) had to order a copy of the Lombardi from Tiffany’s after Carroll Rosenbloom–who owned the team when it won Super Bowl V–took the trophy with him when he traded the Colts for the Los Angeles Rams. Although the Colts are now in Indianapolis, the team’s copy of the trophy is still on display in Baltimore.

Sweet Victory
In addition to the trophy, the individual players on the championship team receive custom-designed rings and a cash award, which currently is $48,000, says Pete Fierle, information services manager for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Each player on the losing team receives $29,000–quite a hike from Super Bowl I in which players from the victorious Green Bay Packers each got $15,000, while the losing Kansas City Chiefs received $7,000 apiece.
But for most players, the monetary awards that accompany a Super Bowl victory are secondary to the thrill of achieving the title of world champion. And after 32 years, the Vince Lombardi Trophy still stands as a sterling testimony to that accomplishment. “It’s a wonderful iconographic symbol of sports in modern times.”

© 1998, Awards and Recognition Association

A Lombardi Trophy fun fact from Steve Sabol, President of NFL films: Sabol’s memory from the first Super Bowl was that League officials wanted to take the winning trophy to New York to be engraved, but Vince Lombardi, the winning coach of the Green Bay Packers, insisted that he was taking it back to Green Bay to show his “stockholders”. Mr. Sabol said “after he showed it to the stockholders, the Packers sent the trophy to New York to be engraved, but sent it in a regular cardboard box, and it was destroyed.” The manufacturer of the trophy had to remake the first Super Bowl trophy ever won, and “the League was mad at the Packers”. A custom carrying and shipping case was designed and now in use to prevent this mishap from occuring in the future.


Lombardi Trophy Replica