The London 2012
Olympic and Paralympic
Games medals

19 September 2011 – 9 September 2012
Room 37
Admission free

‘And, if we thrive, promise them such rewards As victors wear at the Olympian games’
William Shakespeare, Henry VI, Part 3 – Act II Scene iii

This display tells the story of the production of the medals for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, from the mining of the metal to the creation of the designs by David Watkins and Lin Cheung and production by the Royal Mint. This display is part of the Cultural Olympiad and is supported by Rio Tinto. Examples of both these victory medals are shown here publicly for the first time and are the high point of the display.

Historical context for these medals is provided by 19th- and 20th-century objects highlighting the longstanding links between Britain and the Olympic and Paralympic movements. Britain played a crucial role in the creation of both the modern Olympics and Paralympics. ‘Olympian Games’ first took place in the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock in 1850. These games greatly inspired Frenchman Pierre de Coubertin, who attended the 1890 Wenlock games and founded the modern Olympic Games in 1896. The Paralympic Games derive from games held in 1948 at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Buckinghamshire, for people injured in the Second World War. The mascots of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games are named Wenlock and Mandeville in recognition of these earlier games.

This display includes a range of objects from the 19th-century Shropshire games alongside medals from the 1908 and 1948 Olympic Games held in London and the 1960 and 1984 Paralympic Games. These include the silver cup won by Alfred William Oldfield at the National Olympian Games held in Much Wenlock in 1874, which has been lent by a descendant of the winner. Margaret Maughan has lent the gold medal she won for archery at the games now recognised as the first International Paralympic Games, held in Rome in 1960, and John Harris has contributed the gold medal he won for discus at the International Paralympic Games of 1984, the last of these games to be held in England until 2012.

London 2012 Olympic medals, designed by British artist David Watkins. © LOCOG

Notes to Editors:

  • Rio Tinto have supplied all the metal from their Kennecott Utah and Oyu Tolgoi mines for both the Olympic and Paralympic victory medals

  • The display will form part of a free Olympic trail from the 1st June – 9th September. Visitors will tour the galleries to encounter twelve major objects relating to victory, including magnificent statues of athletes such as the world-famous Discus Thrower, and the British Museum's large-scale model of ancient Olympia. One spectacular highlight will be the statue of a Charioteer on special loan from Mozia, Sicily. The trail will conclude at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Medals display.

  • The BP exhibition, Shakespeare: staging the world
    During the summer of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games the British Museum will present a major exhibition on the world of William Shakespeare. The exhibition will provide a unique insight into the emerging role of London as a world city in the 1590s and early 1600s interpreted through objects, digital media and performance. The British Museum has collaborated with the Royal Shakespeare Company in the creative approach to the design of the exhibition, accentuating the connections between the objects, Shakespeare’s text and performance. The arrival of the Games to London provides the opportunity to reflect on how the world came to London four centuries ago, and how London perceived the world when global exchange and other aspects of modernity originated.
    19 July – 25 November 2012
    Admission charge, Reading Room
    Supported by BP
    Part of the London 2012 Festival and the World Shakespeare Festival

  • About the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival

    The London 2012 Cultural Olympiad is the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic Movements. Spread over four years, it is designed to give everyone in the UK a chance to be part of London 2012 and inspire creativity across all forms of culture, especially among young people.

    The culmination of the Cultural Olympiad will be the London 2012 Festival, bringing leading artists from all over the world together from 21 June 2012 in this UK-wide festival – a chance for everyone to celebrate London 2012 through dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, fashion, film and digital innovation.

    Principal funders of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival are Arts Council England, Legacy Trust UK and the Olympic Lottery Distributor. BP and BT are Premier Partners of the Cultural Olympiad and the London 2012 Festival.

    For more details visit


For further information or images please contact the Press Office on 020 7323 8583/8522 or

Images of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic medals are available to download here: Getty Images