The London 2012 Olympic medals were unveiled July 27 by Her Royal Highness, The Princess Royal and London 2012 Organising Committee Chair Seb Coe at an event in Trafalgar Square to mark one year to go to the Olympic Games.

IOC President Jacques Rogge and IOC Coordination Commission Chairman Denis Oswald were also present at the special ceremony.

The medals will be produced in Britain and have been designed by British artist David Watkins, who is an established artist in the field of decorative art.

When creating the brief, the Victory Ceremonies team of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) worked closely with the British Museum’s Keeper of Coins and Medals, Philip Attwood, to look at the symbolic history of medals in Europe in the last century. The LOCOG Athletes’ Committee, chaired by Olympic gold medallist Jonathan Edwards, was also heavily involved in its development.

Following the initial tender, six artists were selected for the second stage of design and development. Based on their work, the panel – which comprised experienced creative leaders and sports personalities – felt that David Watkins’ design for the London 2012 Olympic medals held a narrative that befitted the athletes achievements.

The medals’ circular form is a metaphor for the world. The front of the medal always depicts the same imagery at the summer Games – the Greek Goddess of Victory, Nike, stepping out of the depiction of the Parthenon to arrive in the Host City.

The design for the reverse features five symbolic elements:

  • The curved background implies a bowl similar to the design of an amphitheatre.
  • The core emblem is an architectural expression, a metaphor for the modern City, and is deliberately jewel-like.
  • The grid suggests both a pulling together and a sense of outreach – an image of radiating energy that represents the athletes’ efforts.
  • The River Thames in the background is a symbol for London and also suggests a fluttering baroque ribbon, adding a sense of celebration.
  • The square is the final balancing motif of the design, opposing the overall circularity of the design, emphasising its focus on the centre and reinforcing the sense of ‘place’ as in a map inset.

David Watkins said of his design: ‘It is exciting to think that the finest athletes in the world will be wearing my medal design next summer. Its key symbols juxtapose, front and back, the goddess Nike for the spirit and tradition of the Games, and the River Thames for the city of London. I hope the medal will be enjoyed and treasured as a record of great personal achievements in 2012.’

Seb Coe, LOCOG Chair, said: ‘I hope that seeing the design of the London 2012 Olympic medals will be a source of inspiration for the thousands of athletes around the world who are counting down the year before they compete at the greatest show on earth. All of our preparations are focused on ensuring the athletes are at the heart of the Games, and I believe that through this rigorous process the panel of experts have selected an artist and a design for medals that all athletes would be proud to own.’

IOC President Jacques Rogge added: ‘Highlighting the effort and achievement of the athletes, as well as the city where the Games are held, these beautiful medals will be a fitting reward for the Olympic medallists of 2012. It is the pinnacle of a sporting career to become an Olympic champion but I am confident that receiving one of these medals will make it all the more special in London next year. Congratulations to LOCOG for creating a design that will inspire the Olympians of 2012.’

The ore for the medals is supplied by London 2012 sponsor Rio Tinto and is mined at Rio Tinto’s Kennecott Utah Copper Mine near Salt Lake City in America, as well as from the Oyu Tolgoi project in Mongolia. The medals will go into production later this year at Royal Mint’s headquarters in Llantrisant, South Wales.

The design of the London 2012 Paralympic medals will be released later this year.