The 5,000 medals awarded at the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo will deliver a message beyond athletic achievement, one of sustainability and sensible decisions.
The plan is for the medals to be made from recycled cellphones and small appliances donated by Japanese citizens.
“A project that allows the people of Japan to take part in creating the medals is really good,” Koji Murofushi, the Tokyo 2020 sports director, said in a news conference Wednesday. “There’s a limit on the resources of our earth, so recycling these things will make us think about the environment.”
There’s also a limit to what a host is willing to spent to host the Games, with Tokyo organizers reducing the budget from $35 billion to a more manageable $21 billion last year.
“I think there’s an important message in this for future generations,” Kohei Uchimura, the country’s three-time gold medal-winning gymnast said (via The Japan Times).
What’s especially significant is that the citizens of the host country will have a real role in the process. Olympic medals have been made of recycled materials before, as in 2010 when the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee said its medals were made of recycled circuit boards, but this will be a collective effort — literally. Tokyo organizers hope to gather as many as eight tons of metal to yield the three tons needed for the gold, silver and bronze medals. Collection boxes sponsored by NTT DoCoMo, Japan’s leading mobile carrier, will be set up around the country starting in April.
“The weight of a medal around your neck is always a good weight,” Ashton Eaton, the U.S. two-time Olympic decathlon gold medalist, said. “And when an athlete at Tokyo wins a medal, the weight of it will not be from the gold, silver or bronze; it will be the weight of a nation.”