10 Olympic Athletes Received a Commemorative Meteorite-Embedded Medal at Sochi 2014
On February 15th, in addition to taking home the Sochi 2014 gold medal for first place in their respective events, all 10 winners also received a special hand-engraved medal embedded with a fragment of Chelyabinsk meteorite.
This day marked the one year anniversary of when a 7,000-tonne, 17 metre meteor flew across the Russian sky and crashed down close to the city of Chelyabinsk with the force of over 500,000 tonnes of TNT. Fortunately there were no deaths reported, but the meteor left behind strewn fragments and shock waves in its’ wake. To Chelyabinsk residents, the meteor turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as the meteorite fragments that fell at their feet were worth more than their weight in gold. Many came from far and wide after the incident looking to buy up meteorites for hundreds and thousands of dollars from local residents.
Russian Olympic officials have capitalized on the coincidence that the anniversary of the meteor strike happens to fall within the time the 2014 Winter Olympics are held in Sochi. Commissioning these commemorative medals serves a dual purpose; to honor the gold medal champions and to leave them with a significant souvenir of the Sochi Olympics. Alexei Betekhtin, Region Culture Minister of Chelyabinsk explains, “We will hand out our [meteorite] medals to all the athletes who will win gold on that day, because both the meteorite strike and the Olympic Games are global events.”
Each meteorite medal will be painstakingly handcrafted in a combination of yellow gold and silver by artisans of Zlatoust, a city famous for intricate metal engravings. 50 medals will be created in total: 10 for the gold medal finalists, and 40 will be sold to private collectors. The making of one medal comprises of a labor intensive 12-step production process, including embedding each uniquely shaped meteorite fragment which can take up to 9 people to execute. They will all be handed out in a separate ceremony, hosted by the Chelyabinsk Ministry of Culture.
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