There are 261 days left until the start of the London 2012 Olympics, but production of the 4700 medals has already begun.
At a Royal Mint facility in Llantrisant near Cardiff, Wales, the first of the medals has left the presses. Creating each one is a painstaking process.
A blank medal is placed into the giant press, known as Colossus, and the 10 hour process begins. Each medal is struck 15 times at 900 tonnes. After the 5th and 10th strikes, they are rolled through a furnace which heats the metal to a temperature of 750 degrees Celsius and allows the next stage of production to commence.
Once the process is complete, the Royal Mint is left with the biggest and heaviest Olympic medals ever created. Each one is 85mm in diameter and weighs between 412g (Gold and Silver) and 357g (Bronze). Security is extremely tight. The medals are stored in a special strong room that is guarded by Ministry of Defence police. It is such a secure location that only a handful of people know its location.
If making the medals is an arduous process, then choosing the design was even more so.
A shortlist of ideas submitted by the UK’s leading artists, sculptors and designers was drawn up and the final decision was made by a selection committee. In the end, a design by Professor David Watkins was chosen. He worked closely with Chief Engraver Gordon Summers to create a medal that features Nike, the goddess of victory, on the front and the London 2012 logo and the River Thames on the back.
Royal Mint officials are confident the project can be completed on time.
"We have a very long history of making military medals, and medals for the Queen's honours lists as well as the coins", such as the 2012 Gold Sovereign.
Great Britain's medal performance at the 2008 Summer Olympics was its best in a century and hopes are high that London 2012 will see just as many of these Welsh-made medals awarded to British athletes.
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