The “Tokyo 2020 Medal Project” has, for the first time in the history of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, invited the general public of Japan to be involved in the design and manufacturing process of the games’ medals. Citizens of Japan were invited to submit designs, and an open call was put out across the country for the donation of discarded and used electronic devices, to be recycled and used for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic medals.
The collection period dated from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2019, and approximately 78,985 tons of used small electronic devices were collected by municipal authorities across Japan. In an effort to “embody the emotions of all those who participated in the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project”, the entire country was involved in the production process. Following the initial collection, the devices were classified and then fully dismantled. Once dismantled, the metals could be extracted, and then refined, before the final pure metal was ready for use in the final manufacturing process.
From these collected devices, the final amounts of metals amounted to approximately 32kg of Gold, 3500kg of Silver and 2200kg of Bronze. Using these amounts, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic committee were able to produce approximately 5000 medals, all of which were made from 100% of the used devices donated by Japanese people.
From the entries of over 400 designers and design students, Junichi Kawanishi was the chosen as the successful designer for next year’s games. His design represents the athlete’s “strive for victory on a daily basis”, and the medals themselves “resemble rough stones that have been polished and which now shine, with light and brilliance… Their design is intended to symbolise diversity and represent a world where people who compete in sports and work hard are honoured. The brilliance of the medals’ reflections signifies the warm glow of friendship depicted by people all over the world holding hands”.
The Tokyo 2020 Games has taken a huge step forward in demonstrating how an environmental consciousness can be harnessed on a mass scale and followed through at a global level. Their work will no doubt remain as one of the legacies of the Tokyo 2020 Games, and hopefully pave the way for similar initiatives at future Olympic and Paralympic Games, and beyond.