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Is Hidilyn Diaz's Olympic Gold Medal Made of Real Gold?

It was a 97-year wait for this one.
by Joel Guinto
Jul 27, 2021
Photo/s: Vincenzo Pinto, Agence France-Presse
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Hidilyn Diaz ended the Philippines' nearly century-long wait for an Olympic gold medal and at the end of her record-setting weighlifting match in Tokyo, she clutched it in her hands (nail art and all, as shown in official photos) for an adoring nation to see.

The gold medal for the Tokyo games is actually made of silver, plated in no more than six grams of gold, hence the color. The Japanese are that precise. It weighs 556 grams, heavier than silver (550 grams) and bronze (450 grams), according to the official games website.

All three medals have a diameter of  85 millimeters, with a thickness of 7.7 mm at the thinnest part and 12.1 mm at the thickest. Pursuant to specifications of the International Olympic Committee, the obverse side of the medal should bear the image of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, in front of the Panathinaikos Stadium, the Olympic five rings symbol and the official name of the games, in this case -- Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020.

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The Tokyo 2020 medal design was selected from 400 entries across Japan, with the winning design coming from Junichi Kawanishi, director of both the Japan Sign Design Association and the Osaka Design Society.

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The red, white and blue colors on the medal ribbon are a nod to Japanese design motifsichimatsu moyo (harmonised chequered patterns) and kasane no irome (traditional kimono layering techniques) in a modern presentation.

Silicone convex lines on the surface of the ribbon help distinguish the type of medal (gold, silver, bronze) simply by touching it, according to the games website.

The theme of the medal ribbon is "Unity in Diversity", which is timely for conservative Japan. That was also reflected in the opening ceremonies where former world number one tennis player Naomi Osaka lit the Olympic flame in dreadlocks and street wear.

Conservative Japan has struggled to accept bi-racials, called hafu, like Osaka, whose mother is Japanese with a Haitian-American father.

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Naomi Osaka lights Olympic flame
Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka lights the flame of hope in the Olympic Cauldron during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. Dylan Martinez, Poll via Agence France-Presse

When Diaz competed for the gold, she wore the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady, as pointed out by The Manila Cathedral, the Philippines' Mother Church.

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Diaz said she and her family prayed a nine-day novena for her win. Explaining the symbolism of the medal, she told reporters: ""It's a sign of 'yung prayers nila and faith pa rin, to Mama Mary and Jesus Christ," 

Diaz's victory got senators thinking of an official honor from the chamber for athletes like the weightlifter from Zamboanga. Foreign Affairs Sec. Teodoro Locsin has just one reminder, it should be made of the good stuff.

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