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Olympic Pin collecting brings people together at Beijing 2022

Find out about the seriously cool culture that has become an Olympic tradition. And it's even stepping into the world of NFTs.

3 min By Danny Lewis
Fan Suyuan, Ling Zhi, Vicky Persinger and Christopher Plys
(Picture by 2022 Getty Images)

When attending something as monumental as an Olympic Games, it is only natural that people will want a souvenir.

It's for this very reason that pin badges have become an incredibly cool part of the culture around the Games, something that continues into Beijing 2022.

The opportunity to trade pins will be especially welcome this time around for the keenest of collectors, as the Covid-enforced ban on spectators made it almost difficult for in-person trades at Tokyo 2020.

Tokyo pins
Tokyo pins (2021 Getty Images)

A place in history

The presence of pin badges is something that stretches all the way back to Athens 1896, the very first modern Games, where delegations wore cardboard badges.

Starting as a way of identifying athletes, judges and officials, pins soon evolved into an Olympic tradition where everyone from athletes to event staff, journalists and spectators would collect and trade pins in the Olympic Village and beyond.

As cardboard was replaced by sleeker enamel materials, the selling of pins became a way for Olympic committees to cover some of their costs with a local company producing and selling 18 million of them for Lillehammer 1994.

The lure of pins has grown even wider, with sponsors among those who have joined in to make pins around the Olympic Games.

Sochi 2014 pins
Sochi 2014 pins (2014 Getty Images)

Making connections

Even the athletes have been trading pins at the Olympic Winter Games, as was highlighted in the curling mixed doubles round-robin on Saturday.

After USA had beaten People's Republic of China 7-5, Fan SuYuan and Ling Zhi presented Vicky Persinger and Christopher Plys with pin badges featuring Bing Dwen Dwen, the mascot of the Games.

"They're just beautiful, something super unique. These will be on my desk for a very, very long time," said Plys, as quoted by Reuters.

"I'm definitely going to have to give them something now. They've upped their game big time. We'll find something special to give them to hold onto."

This has also helped non-athletes, such as Nagano restaurant owner and pin trader Matsayuki Tanaka, connect with other people.

"Even though I cannot speak English, I can communicate through pins," he told CNN. "Each pin has a story. I remember where I met [each collector] and what I received.

"No matter how many years have passed, I want to meet with people who gave me pins again. It's [a form of] memorial and communication."

Rio 2016 pins
Rio 2016 pins (2016 Getty Images)

Continuing to evolve

Leaving the days of cardboard pins even further behind, they are now also available as NFTs (non-fungible tokens).

As is the case with physical pins, there is a real selection including historical ones that go as far back as St. Louis 1904 and Chamonix 1924, the very first Olympic Winter Games.

There are also pins focusing on Beijing 2022 that are available.

PyeongChang 2018 pins
PyeongChang 2018 pins (2018 Getty Images)

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