Race for medals near finish

The final batch of a total 3,000 medals to be awarded at next month’s Athens Olympics are being pressed and will be ready next week, the company producing them in a factory on the outskirts of Athens said yesterday. «We have almost finished. Organizers will receive the last medals by the end of next week,» said Nikos Konstantopoulos, the president of Efsimon, the Greek company bankrolling their production. Fifteen Greek specialists, from electronic engineers to goldsmiths, have been toiling for three months on the medals in an unassuming cement building built on «NATO Avenue» – a dreary, dusty road in the Greek capital’s industrial zone. There, next to run-down takeaway canteens and car repair workshops, a ton each of silver and bronze were processed into 3,000 medals: 986 each from gold and silver and 1,150 from bronze because in sports such as gymnastics and weightlifting, more than one athlete can finish third. Winners’ medals are sent to Switzerland for a final gloss of around six grams (0.02 ounces) of gold. Workers first cut 40-centimeter-long flat silver and bronze bars weighing around 5 kilos (11 ounces) into the shape of medals. Then, mighty presses stamp the image of Nike, the ancient Greek mythology’s winged goddess of victory, on them. «The image is based on the only known ancient sculpture of Nike in which the goddess is standing,» said German-trained Greek artist Kostas Kazakos, who designed the medals with fellow-artist Elena Votsi. Each medal weighs 150 grams and is 6 centimeters (2.4 inches) in diameter. Their production costs around 1 million euros ($1.25 million), Konstantopoulos said. (AFP)