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The eco-friendly Rio 2016 Olympic medals are here

The Olympics are headed to Rio de Janeiro later this summer, and we now know what the gold, silver and bronze medals will look like. See video following story.

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The 2016 Olympics are nearing, and with the excitement of the best athletes in the world gathering for one of the biggest sporting events in the world comes the excitement about the design and composition of the medals they’re competing for.

Last week the Brazilian Mint, in collaboration with the International Olympic Committee, unveiled the gold, silver, and bronze medals that will be awarded to Olympic athletes at a Barra Olympic Park ceremony.

The Rio 2016 Games begin on Aug. 5. 

The theme of this Games' medals combines strong, historic forces of nature with Olympic heroes. Sustainable sources were also a focal point for this year’s medal design, and the materials used to create them confirms that notion.

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Each medal depicts Nike, the Greek god of sport, as well as laurel leaves, the symbol of victory in ancient Greece. The leaves are meant to link nature to the athletes who are competing.

The Paralympic Games medals also feature intriguing elements. Visually impaired athletes who earn a medal, for example, will hear a distinct noise coming from their gold, silver, or bronze medal that will allow the participant to know which type of medal is being placed around their neck.

Each Olympic and Paralympic gold, silver, and bronze medal weighs 500 grams, but that doesn't mean that the "gold" medal contains 500 grams, or more than 17 ounces, of gold (that would give each medal a bullion value of more than $22,000!). There's an "Olympic standard" for the actual metallic content of the medals. A "gold" medal is actually made of .925 fine silver (the remainder of the alloy being copper) and plated with pure gold (about 6 grams worth for the Rio medal).

All of the medals, including the silver medal (.925 fine) and the bronze medal were created to have ultimate sustainability. 

The gold used for plating the gold medals, all of the 812 that have been produced, was extracted without the use of mercury. 

Meanwhile, 30 percent of every medal — gold, silver and bronze — is composed of recycled metal.

And it's not just the medals. 

The ribbons that they hang on are also “green,” as they’re composed from recycled plastic bottles.  

The cases that hold the medals, too?

You bet. Those are also eco-friendly. They're made from freijó wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  

Even the spots where the medal-winning athletes will stand follow the sustainable theme. The Rio podiums, which are made from organic, tropical materials, will serve as furniture when their Olympic duties conclude.

Check out the Rio 2016 medal designs in this video of the medals being made.

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