Up close and personal with Olympic gold

By Reuters Staff
February 24, 2010

OLYMPICS-VANCOUVER/Pritha Sarkar writes:

I felt like I was floating on cloud nine as I gingerly touched the Olympic gold medal sitting there in my hand and staring back at me.

I’ve dreamed of this moment all my life. Words cannot describe how I’m feeling right now – then the voice of the security woman at the door broke my reverie: “No biting, kissing, licking and chewing of medals in any kind!”

Unfortunately I had not just been crowned an Olympic champion –- unless queue jumping counts as an Olympic sport!

Instead, I had just got a taste of what over 70,000 fans have been queuing up for -– to get an up close and personal look of the Vancouver Olympics medals.

The Olympic accreditation hanging around my neck afforded me the luxury of being fast tracked into the Royal Canadian Mint building but once inside I felt the same excitement as all those members of the public who had stood on their tired legs for up to eight hours.

For the first time at a Games, the general public have been given the chance to inspect, touch and feel a real Olympic medal.

Well, almost. The only thing separating your hand from the medal is the Michael Jackson-esque white glove you are given when you first enter the room.

Once you have the gloves on you have all of 10 minutes to experience your Olympic moment.

While fans scramble to get their pictures taken with the gold, silver and bronze medals, Stephane Ouellette, a lead machinist who was involved in the making of the pieces of metal, fills us in on the science bit.

“No two medals are alike as each medal forms a part of an aboriginal work of art,” he tells the group of 25 milling around in the first floor room. “Medal winners are given a scarf with the whole painting so that they can see which part of the artwork is depicted on their medal. Each medal weighs between 500 and 576 grammes…”

With in a flash it was all over – and while you have to hand the medal back, you do get to keep the glove as a keepsake.

PHOTO: A visitor to the Royal Canadian Mint displays a replica of a Paralympic gold medal featuring Braille script on the second day of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics February 13, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

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