Olympic fans to turn smartphones into medals

Fans of the Olympic Games in Japan now have a unique opportunity to play their part in Tokyo 2020 – by seeing their old smartphones and laptops turned into medals.

Tokyo 2020

The scheme, which involves a nationwide collection of discarded and obsolete electronic devices, will see these gadgets used to create medals for successful athletes. It aims to gather eight tonnes – around 40kg of gold, 4,900kg of silver and 2,900kg of bronze – of the raw metals they contain and harness them in a production process that will yield 5,000 medals for the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Smartphones, digital cameras, handheld games and laptops will all be gathered over the next two years at locations all across the country – with more than 2,400 NTT DOCOMO stores and 350 local government offices in every prefecture of Japan taking part.

The process becomes interactive as soon as an owner has deposited their gadget. All donors will receive a machine-readable QR code that allows them to follow the medals’ creation – from recovery of the metal, right through the design and production processes to the finished product.

Takeshi Matsuda, the four-time Japanese Olympic swimming medalist, explained that the scheme would give disused materials an exciting new life.

In this way, the medals become memorable for everyone, not just the athletes. Takeshi Matsuda Japan

“It’s a great project that turns your old phones into athletes’ treasured medals,” said Matsuda, who retired last September after a glittering career. “The phones will just be left at home otherwise. I’m glad that by participating in this project, anyone can take part in the Games. In this way, the medals become memorable for everyone, not just the athletes.”

The message about sustainability, and ensuring these items do not become waste, is an important part of the project. There is also the emotional value they possess, as Takuro Yamada – the Rio Paralympic swimming bronze medalist – explained.

“For all athletes, the Olympic and Paralympic medals are something very special,” he said. “Mobile phones are also filled with people’s thoughts and memories. Tokyo 2020 Games’ medals will be even more meaningful for those who receive them, because they will be filled with people’s thoughts and hearts.”

The collection initiative began on April 1 and will run until Spring 2019 – or sooner if the eight-tonne target is reached before that time.

Tokyo 2020 is a little over three years away. It will be held from July 24, 2020 until August 9, 2020. The medals made from the devices gathered in this groundbreaking scheme will reach to all corners of the globe and create a long-lasting legacy from items that might otherwise have lain forgotten.

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