Precious medals: Summer Olympic athletes will compete for pieces of the Eiffel Tower
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
The most exclusive, hardest-to-obtain accessory this year won't have diamonds or pearls, but rather iron from the actual Eiffel Tower.
SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:
And to get one will be an Olympic feat, literally. The organizers of the 2024 Games in Paris have announced that this year's Olympic medals will be made with bits of that iconic front structure embedded inside the gold, silver and bronze.
SHAPIRO: Parisian jewelry house Chaumet shaped the medals into hexagons that will be hung from the necks of Olympic winners this summer.
PFEIFFER: The president of the organizing committee for the Paris Olympics, Tony Estanguet, explained why pieces of the country's most enduring symbol are being incorporated into the medals.
TONY ESTANGUET: To get a medal, it's so very important. And to have the Eiffel Tower present in the middle, it's for us the best demonstration that we want to to offer the best of France to all the athletes.
SHAPIRO: Head of design Joachim Roncin says they weren't sure if this idea was possible until the people who maintain the tower showed them a secret stash of archived metal.
JOACHIM RONCIN: Each time the Eiffel Tower is refurbished or gets old, like any monument, they collect some pieces and they stock them. Then we were able to get our hands on this warehouse, and the whole thing started.
PFEIFFER: The pieces they chose to be inlaid in the Olympic medals are from the Eiffel Tower's original construction in the 1880s. Roncin says reaction from athletes to the announcement has been a reward of its own.
RONCIN: I felt so much emotions in their voice, and it brought me tears because, of course, at the end, it's only for them that we're doing that.
SHAPIRO: The Games will be held in Paris from July 26 to August 11. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
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