VANCOUVER - Vancouver's Olympic organizing committee has unveiled the gold, silver and bronze medals for the 2010 Winter Games and both Olympic and Paralympic athletes might be well-served to start strengthening their neck muscles.
The medals, which are the first in Olympic and Paralympic history to contain metal once destined for the landfill, are among the heaviest in Games history at about half a kilogram.
The medals are based on two artworks of an orca whale and raven by Corrine Hunt, a B.C.-born artist who beat out dozens of others for the right to design the awards.
None of the 615 Olympic and 399 Paralympic medals will be exactly alike and the metals are undulating, rather than flat. The Olympic medals are circular while the Paralympic medals are more square.
"Medals are memories, they are memories of the dedication, the commitment, and the sacrifice that every one of these athletes gave," said Daniel Wesley, a five-time Canadian Paralympian and 12-time medallist who was on hand as the medals were revealed Thursday morning.
"These medals that are being unveiled today set a new high standard, a new high water mark for all the other Olympics to come to see if they can match it."
The medals, which were designed with input from Olympic and Paralympic athletes, are being produced by the Royal Canadian Mint and resource giant Teck Resources Limited.
Each medal will have a signature element from the orca and raven artwork, such as the orca's eye or the raven's wing.
The reverse side of the medals features the names of the Games in English and French, as well as the Vancouver 2010 logo and name of the sport for which the medal was issued. The Paralympic medals also use braille.
The Mint began work on the medals this past July and the work is expected to be complete by November.
"When we were presented with the Olympic medal design by VANOC a few months ago, we knew they had something special and inspiring to say and share with the world," International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said in a statement.
"These medals are a beautiful and fitting tribute to the athletes who will shine and be forever remembered as the heroes and heroines of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games."
Minister of State for Sport Gary Lunn said the medals capture the beauty of Canada's landscape and evoke images of the sea and mountains of Vancouver and Whistler.
"The unveiling of this medal brings the reality of Canada's Games just that much closer," Lunn said, noting the Olympics are 120 days away.
"The size of the Olympic medal, even as big and as heavy as it is, is still at odds with the strength as a symbol. For individual athletes, winning it symbolizes an enormous achievement, the reward of exceptional work and tremendous dedication."