Olympic Gold Medals Have Almost Zero Gold In Them by Jeff Desjardins, Visual Capitalist

The 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games are already 51% over budget, with the total cost expected to be in the $4.6 billion range. With that in mind, the organizers have tried their best to cut costs.

One area of compromise?

The Olympic gold medals, which weigh 500g (1.1 lbs) and are 85mm (3.3 in) in diameter, are gold in name only.

Olympic Gold Medals Have Almost Zero Gold in Them

Today’s infographic comes from JM Bullion and it shows the real amount of metal in gold, silver, and bronze medals, along with the hypothetical cost of awarding solid gold to winning athletes.

Olympic Gold Medals Have Almost Zero Gold In Them Infographic

All That Glitters is…Silver

That’s right, gold medals are actually 98.8% silver, with just a thin 1.2% coat of gold paint. The thin layer of gold meets the minimum requirement set by IOC says for the amount of gold actually in the gold medal – just six grams.

The material cost of a gold medal right now based on this composition is $548. Almost half of that comes from the six grams of gold, while the rest comes from the 494 grams of sterling silver.

The silver and bronze medals have material costs of $292 and $2.16 respectively.

Why Doesn’t the Olympics Use Solid Gold Medals?

Solid gold medals haven’t been awarded to Olympic athletes since the 1912 Stockholm Games. Back then, medals were a mere 33mm in diameter and made of silver gilded with gold. It’s easy to see why organizers have gone this route when you take into account the difference in material costs.

Each gold medal at the Rio Games currently costs $548 for materials – if they were solid gold that cost would balloon to $21,674 per medal. That means that if all 812 gold medals were solid gold, the tab would be a grand total of $17.6 million. That’s not including minting or additional security costs, either.

With the 2016 Rio Summer Olympic Games already 51% over budget, we can forgive the organizers for sticking to the minimum required amount of gold for each medal.