What Is That Bizarre Image on the Back of Hidilyn Diaz's Gold Medal?


Every Olympic gold medal has an interesting image on the back. It depicts a winged woman carrying a palm branch. She is standing in front of a large stadium.

The woman on the medal is actually the Greek goddess Nike, whom the footwear brand Nike was named after. Nike is the goddess of victory. On the medal, the Panathinaikos Stadium is prominent in the background. It was the site of the first modern Olympics held in 1896.

This particular design was a requirement of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which stated that the obverse side of the medal should bear the image of Nike standing in front of the Panathinaikos Stadium.

Relief of the Goddess Nike in Ephesus, Turkey

Photo by Shutterstock.

The Olympic Five Rings are also carved on the medal,  together with the official name of the event, Games of the XXXII Olympiad Tokyo 2020.

Nike is the daughter of the giant Pallas and of the River Styx. In ancient Greek mythology, Nike is often depicted as an attribute of the major gods Athena and Zeus. According to Britannica, she is represented in art as a small figure carried in the hands of either Athena or Zeus.


But Nike is a powerful goddess in her own right. She is deferred to not only by men but also by other Greek gods, because the outcome of wars, competitions, or any undertaking can be swayed by Nike to their favor. In Greek mythology, Nike would preside over battlefields, flying over combatants and blessing them with glory. She is also an intermediary who would help the gods bestow success on people. The ancient Greeks believed the gods determined which athletes won the Olympic Games, and Nike always had a hand in the outcome. 

Several excavations in Greece have unearthed sculptures and reliefs depicting Nike, in which she appeared to be alighting from a floating flagship, presumably to work her powers on wars.

'Winged Victory of Samothrace' Classical Greek Statue of Nike in Louvre Museum, Paris, France

Photo by Pamela Loreto Perez.

The ancient Romans have also adopted Nike and named her Victoria, who was associated with the major gods Jupiter and Mars. 

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The gold medal for the Tokyo Olympics is made of silver and then plated in six grams of gold. It weighs 556 grams with a diameter of 85 millimeters. According to NBC New York, the economic value of the Tokyo Olympics gold medal is $820 or P41,200, but actually earning one is priceless. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor-at-Large
Mario Alvaro Limos is features editor-at-large at Esquire Philippines, and heads the Lifestyle and Esports content of SPIN.ph as its section editor. Email him at [email protected] and [email protected]
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