Olympic pins have existed for as long as the modern Olympic Games themselves. The first known Olympic pin was from Greece. Handmade of cloth, it featured a white cross on a blue background and had a diameter of 23mm (shown at left). Selected Greek athletes who finished first in the Athens 1896 Olympic preliminary trials were given one of these pins. These primitive pieces of ephemera have now evolved into sophisticated pieces of art utilizing many of the “bells and whistles” of modern-day technology.
In recent years, pins have been manufactured with colors that change, parts that move, and lights and sounds that turn on and off. Furthermore, the “raison d’être” for pins has expanded from recognizing superior athletes to promoting and publicizing NOCs, corporate sponsors, media organizations, and future Games bid cities. And, finally, the sheer quantities of pins being made has exploded as literally thousands of designs and millions of pins are now available at any given Games.
As they have also become tokens of goodwill exchanged between athletes, officials, volunteers, members of the media, and spectators, Olympic pins now enjoy a high profile at the Olympic Games and within the Olympic movement. This new status was formally recognized at the XV Olympic Winter Games in Calgary, Canada, where the first “Coca-Cola Official Olympic Pin Trading Center” was put into operation. The venerable Atlanta-based, soft-drink manufacturer and long-time sponsor of the Olympic Games has had one or more “official” pin trading centers at every Games since.
In the years to come, who knows how Olympic pins will evolve and how their role will change? Ultimately, those questions will be answered by those members of the Olympic family who have participated in Olympic pin trading and will continue to solidify the hobby as “the official spectator sport of the Olympic Games.”
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