Athletes who medal at the 2024 Summer Olympics and Paralympics in Paris will pack a rare souvenir in their luggage on their flight home: an actual piece of the Eiffel Tower.
This year’s gold, silver, and bronze winners will receive a piece of iron in the center of their medals taken directly from the Paris landmark. In total, 5,084 medals will bear the unique hexagon-shaped addition.
The iron pieces each weigh 18 grams or roughly two-thirds of an ounce. They were taken from girders and other areas of the tower that are periodically swapped out during renovations and stored for safekeeping. The tower was originally only supposed to last for 20 years but has stood for 135, thanks in part to ongoing maintenance.
“This exceptional object had to meet another very strong symbol of our country and our capital,” said Tony Estanguet, the president of the Paris 2024 organizing committee, during the recent medal unveiling, reported The New York Times.
Martin Fourcade, a five-time Olympic champion and current president of the Paris 2024 Athletes’ Commission, said the city wanted to produce something special.
“We wanted this medal to be beautiful, we wanted it to be symbolic, and what is more symbolic than bringing back home a piece of France’s heritage,” he said during the unveiling, per the NYT.
The Eiffel Tower was built entirely using a particular type of iron called “puddle” iron. Excess carbon is removed in the manufacturing process, resulting in a strong, nearly pure material that makes up the world-famous structure.
“A symbol of excellence, a source of motivation, of surpassing oneself and of ultimate achievement, medals are much more than objects: They represent the apotheosis in the career of elite athletes,” said Estanguet, according to CBS News.