Historically, Olympic medals haven’t been the medium of daring, Olympic-caliber design. Take Omer Arbel‘s design for the 2010 Vancouver Games. Originally, he proposed a two-piece medal, which would be held together by concealed magnets and open to reveal a locket that could be worn by the winning athletes as a reminder of their achievements. After a few iterations, the locket was jettisoned and the concept reduced to a wavy piece of medal. The sad message to designers pitching Olympic committees: Stick to the basic form, experiment with texture.
That’s basically the guideline Lin Cheung followed in designing the new Paralympic medal, which will be presented at London’s 2012 games. The 40-year-old jewelry artist drew inspiration from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, who has been depicted on the Olympic medal since 2004. The obverse side features an imagined close-up section of Nike’s outstretched wing, symbolizing “flight, power, and lightness.” The reverse side represents “the heart of victory,” with a mold taken from the chest of the The Nike of Paionios (not the fifth-century BC original, which is in Greece, but a plaster cast at the British Museum).
The London Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games chose Lin’s design from those of an invited group of artists. “LOCOG sent us a design brief,” Cheung tells Co.Design, “and whilst it was very free and open to interpretation, they also wanted the Paralympic message to be included and that the front of the medal really talked to the back.” Working with the Royal Mint, she managed to achieve the strong tactile effect she wanted on both sides. “It is the most high-profile project I’ve worked on to date,” Cheung says. “And one of the most challenging aspects–along with realizing a strong concept through to fruition–was actually keeping it secret for well over a year!”
The medals are on view at the British Museum through September 9, 2012.