The Japanese 4x100m team with their silver medals at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (© Getty Images)
Medals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be made, at least in part, from recycled mobile phones, organisers announced on Wednesday (1).
Hoping to promote sustainability, heighten environmental awareness and save costs, organisers are inviting the Japanese public to donate discarded or obsolete electronic devices which will then be used to create the medals that will be awarded to athletes at the Games.
Organisers say the project highlights Tokyo 2020’s commitments to engage the public by offering the entire country a role to play in the Games' preparations. The project also responds directly to a recommendation of Olympic Agenda 2020 that states that sustainability is to be integrated into all aspects of the planning and execution of the Games.
One of the project's biggest fans is two-time Olympic decathlon champion Ashton Eaton of the US.
“An Olympic medal is one of the most coveted items in existence," said Eaton, the world record-holder in the event.
"People spend decades, often agonising ones, working to obtain one. The life stories of so many are defined by the pursuit of these metal medallions, and those same stories are what inspire and bring millions of us together.
“And now, thanks to the Tokyo 2020 Medal Project, not only do the athletes inspire with their stories, but each medal itself has a story of its own! The best part is that each citizen has a chance to contribute to the story, to raise awareness about a sustainable future and to make a unique contribution. And, most excitingly, they have a chance to be part of the Olympic journey."
The organising committee is aiming to collect eight tons of metal – 40kg of gold, 4920kg of silver and 2944kg of bronze – which after the production process will result in two tons, the amount needed to produce 5000 medals.
To help with the collection process, Tokyo 2020 is partnering with Japan's mobile phone company NTT DOCOMO and the Japan Environmental Sanitation Center (JESC). Beginning in April, collection boxes will be installed in more than 2400 NTT DOCOMO stores as well as in public offices throughout the country. The collection will end when the eight-ton target is reached.
“The weight of a medal around your neck is always a good weight," Eaton said, who recently announced his retirement from the sport.
"And when an athlete at Tokyo wins a medal, the weight of it will not be from the gold, silver, or bronze; it will be the weight of a nation. The awesomeness of this project makes me want to come out of retirement and compete for one.
“I have always been a fan of people who do things differently; of those who try to move the needle in a positive way."
Tokyo 2020 organisers for the IAAF