A Different Kind of Olympic Medal

Designer Paul Antonson took a whimsical approach to The Wall Street Journal’s Olympic pin for the 2012 London Games.

There is a sub-culture that infiltrates all the Olympic Games.  It is always there, at every single event, capturing every moment on the field and off, spreading like spiders throughout every street of the Olympic host city. It is the media.  Within that culture you have the equivlant of military medals of honor-the Olympic pins.  Every media outlet has one, sometimes, different groups within the same media company have their own.  They are specifically designed to represent the spirit of the respective group and designed to symbolically say ‘I was there.’

Many pins are designed to reflect the personality of the group.  The London 2012 WSJ pin does this admirably.  It takes a whimsical approach featuring a Palace guard carrying a relay stick, wearing cleats.  Designed by Paul Antonson, I would say that it well represents the the motley crew of reporters covering the Games for the Journal.

Creating pins for the Olympics goes back to Athens in 1894, when they were made from cardboard discs rather than the enamel/medal ones of today.  In the Paris Games of 1924, the athletes, coaches and other officials were allowed to mix more freely.  This lead to the practice of swapping pins which continues to this day.

In Beijing, I didn’t really do very well and to be honest, only have one pin from the 2008 games and I can’t even remember who gave it to me.  It has been rolling around in my camera back for the past four years.  I am not much of a collector.  This is much to the dismay of J.R. Whalen, one of our producers for WSJLive, who is an expert collector of pins from all sports.  He sent a grubstake of pins to trade for him and that puts an enormous amount of pressure on my bargaining skills.  He told me that a good pin has three details:

The name of the media outlet, the Olympic Rings, and MOST important, the year the pin was created.

On Opening Ceremony day just after our first two live shots,  I ran into a jovial man from Long Island who proudly proclaimed that he and his wife had been to every Olympic Games since 1996.  His hat was studded with different pins so I grasped the opportunity to try a little trade.  Don’t worry, J.R. I didn’t experiment with one of your pins, I used my WSJ pin to strike the bargain.  I got a “U.S. Olympic Committee” pin.

The first attempt at pin trading.

In the heat of the moment, I forgot one of the key things that MUST be on the pin to make it truly a collector’s item.  It must have the date.  As you can see in the picture-no date.  I promise, J.R., that I will do better in the next three weeks.

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