It’s an iconic pose amongst athletes: Biting their medals and even trophies on a podium in front of a crowd of photographers.
But the organising committee of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is now urging medallists not to do so, according to its Twitter post on July 26.
What did the committee say?
We just want to officially confirm that the #Tokyo2020 medals are not edible!
Our ??? medals are made from material recycled from electronic devices donated by the Japanese public.
So, you don’t have to bite them… but we know you still will ? #UnitedByEmotion
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020)
“We just want to officially confirm that the #Tokyo2020 medals are not edible,” said the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympics and Paralympics Games.
According to the committee, the Olympic and Paralympic medals are made of recycled metals gleaned from small electronic devices so as to “contribute to an environmentally-friendly and sustainable society.”
These small electronic devices were collected from all over Japan from April 2017 to March 2019 as part of the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project.
According to the Olympics official website, approximately 5,000 gold, silver, and bronze medals were manufactured from recycled metals.
Tokyo 2020 medallist who bit their medals
Here are some other athletes who were spotted chomping on their medals.
But why do athletes bite their medals?
It could be to check if it is made of pure gold, said the Olympics official website, like how traders in the past bit gold coins to check their authenticity.
Gold, you see, is a soft metal and biting on it leaves a mark.
But, this shouldn’t apply to gold medals awarded at the Olympic Games since the International Olympic Committee stopped awarding pure gold medals in 1912.
So why do they keep doing it?
David Wallechinsky, the president of the International Society of Olympic Historians, told CNN that the pose has become an obsession among photographers.
German luger, David Moeller, who won a silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics mentioned that the photographers wanted him to pose with his medal in his teeth.
Wallechinsky believed that photographers view these shots as iconic and ask athletes to pose for them.
The takeaway here is that there’s nothing more to biting a medal than an iconic pose. It’s actually better for athletes not to bite their medals because they might chip a tooth, as Moeller did in 2010.
And indeed the committee ended its tweet with this: “So, you don’t have to bite them … but we know you still will.”
Top images: Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympics and Paralympics Games.