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Complete Olympic Medal Collection Arrives in Toronto for Rare Display

Hockey Hall of Fame Houses All 137 Modern Olympic Medals

Every Olympic medal from Beijing 2008 all the way back to Athens 1896 can now be seen in person at a rare showing inside Toronto’s Hockey Hall of Fame.

The complete Olympic medal collection, permanently housed in the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switz., is on special loan to Canada in advance of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The display runs Oct. 1, 2009 through Jan. 15, 2010.

It features every medal from every Winter and Summer Olympic Games, marking the first time the entire collection of 137 medals has left its home in Lausanne. And the collection certainly has some value, seeing as how gold medals awarded in 1900, 1904 and 1908 were made entirely of gold. (Today’s gold and silver medals must be made of at least 92.5% silver, with gold covered in six grams of 24-karat gold.)

At the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, only the two top finishers in an event were recognized. To the winner went a silver medal prominently featuring the face of Zeus, as well as a crown of olive branches. The second-place finisher won a bronze medal and a crown of laurel.

After those initial Games, the three medals took form and have held true at every Games since. Each summer medal over the years generally depicts the winged goddess of victory – Nike – in some fashion. The winter medals – dating to 1920 – do not subscribe to any particular design, so they differ the greatest and sometimes use unique materials. Look no further than the medals of the Albertville 1992 Olympic Winter Games, see-through as they are made of glass. Whatever season, each medal captures the terrain and culture in some way of the Host City.

Visitors to the exhibit can study the fine details of the medals, each of which is displayed with a description. They can view the very unique medals of Paris 1900, which are shaped as rectangles. The huge differences in sizes compared to the earliest Games. The medals of Sarajevo 1984, shaped like badges. The Torino 2006 medals, with a hole in the centre representing the Italian piazza (ask Cindy Klassen about those). The Canadian-focused medals of Montreal 1976 and Calgary 1988. The gold medal of Berlin 1936, famously won four times by American track athlete Jesse Owens.

These medals represent amazing stories from the past, glimpses of sport history that live on as part of the Olympic Movement.

Click for images of many of these amazing medals.