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The Tokyo Olympics is finally set to begin this month, a year after the COVID-19 pandemic brought large gatherings and events to a standstill.
People all over the world will see around 10,000 athletes representing 205 National Olympic Committees compete for medals in 33 sports. Some of the sporting events will begin on 21 July, but the opening ceremony is on 23 July.
Athletes will be competing for gold, silver and bronze medals, with 339 medal events across 42 venues in Japan. About 5,000 medals have been produced for the Tokyo Games and each medal has been made from recycled materials. The design of the medals was chosen out of over 400 submissions from professional designers and design students.
To the Olympians who have trained hard for the Games, medals are priceless. But many spectators may be wondering: how much are they worth?
How much is an Olympic medal worth?
Going by the current value of the materials used, a gold medal is worth about £646 ($888), silver £372, and bronze about £3.
Despite the name, an Olympic gold medal actually contains just six grams of gold plating on 550 grams of silver.
The silver medal contains 550 grams of the metal, according to the Olympics website. The bronze medal is about 450 grams of what is actually red brass — a mix of 95% copper and 5% zinc. All the medals are 85mm in diameter.
Watch: How much is an Olympic gold medal worth?
Prior to 1904, athletes placed first were awarded silver medals and second place winners were awarded bronze. Solid gold medals were given out during the 1904, 1908 and 1912 Olympics, but a shortage of gold during World War I meant no fully gold medals have been given to Olympians since then.
Gold and silver medalists at Tokyo will be benefiting from a rally for precious metal prices over the last 18 months.
“Gold is traditionally viewed as a safe haven for investors," William Ryder, an equity analyst at Hargreaves Landsdown said. "The yellow metal looks more attractive when the world feels uncertain.
"Given the uncertainty caused by COVID-19, it’s hardly surprising that gold hit record highs last year – peaking at over $2,000 an ounce in August. Now that more people are vaccinated the price has come down a bit."
The market for second hand medals
While most medalists won't sell their valuable piece of history, those that do will get more than just the value of the metal. Olympic medals are sporting memorabilia and as such carry a higher price than simply the value of their raw materials.
In 2005, American swimmer Anthony Ervin sold his Sydney 2000 men's 50-metre freestyle gold medal for $17,100 on eBay to raise money for the Tsunami Relief Fund after the 2004 Boxing Day tsunami in Asia. Ervin went on to strike gold twice more just over 11 years later at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The most expensive Olympic medal ever to sell at auction belonged to Jesse Owens. At the age of 21, American Owens set five world records and equalled a sixth on track and field, including his men's 100-yard dash at the Big Ten Championships in 1935 (not to be confused with the newer event of the men's 100m). He did this all in just 45 minutes and with a bruised leg. He went on to win four golds at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
As well as breaking records, Owens made history as a Black man competing in a German Olympics overseen by Adolf Hitler. The New York Times called Owens "the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history" when he died in 1980.
One of Owens' four gold medals from Berlin sold for over $1.4m in 2013, and a second was sold for $615,000 in 2019, according to Olympic news website Inside the Games.
Some Olympians are sitting on more gold medal wealth than others. The now-retired American swimmer Michael Phelps has won more medals than any other competitor, with an incredible 23 Olympic golds and 28 Olympic medals overall. He last competed in Rio 2016 and set new world records at the Beijing 2008 Olympics. The market value of his gold medals would be roughly £15,000.
Usain Bolt, often dubbed the fasted man alive thanks to his unbeaten 9.58 seconds world record in the men's 100m, has eight Olympic golds. Bolt's medal haul contains over £5,000 worth of precious metal.
Laura and Jason Kenny, who will be part of Team GB's 26-strong cycling squad in Tokyo, have 10 gold medals between them. Together the Olympic couple are going for five more gold medals this year, which would bring their combined market value of gold medals to over £9,600.
Watch: What you need to know for the Tokyo Olympic Games