One of the major participatory sports at any modern Olympic Games is pin collecting. They’re everywhere, by the thousands, representing sports, sponsors, federations, Olympic committees and media organizations. Even after I swore off collecting and collections, I was sucked right back in. Albeit briefly.
These were all taken at the Olympic Park train station during the Summer Olympic Games in London four years ago. About a dozen vendors gathered here daily, attracting hundreds –probably thousands– of part-time or fleeting collectors. Collectors wear them on their hats, vests, scarves, and in the cases of Olympic Games, on their accreditation badge straps.
It’s most polite to trade but they’re also bought and sold; prices range from a few euros, pounds or dollars to 50, 100 or more. As with most collectibles, it can be a very serious business. I watched a minor brawl between two collectors at the 2004 Games in Athens which the vendor brought to an unceremonious end by refusing to sell the volatile pin to either one of them.
The tradition began with the first modern Games in Athens in 1896 when officials and athletes traded cardboard badges with colleagues from other countries as gestures of goodwill. In 1912, Stockholm introduced them commercially and made collectible pins available to the public for the first time. I wonder if any fights broke out among collectors then.
According to Collectors Weekly, the Olympic pin industry didn’t come into its own until the 1980s when some 17 million were produced for the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
I found these images today after going in search of Olympic-related photos from London after accepting the realization that I quite likely won’t be attending this summer’s Games in Rio de Janeiro, thus ending my summer Games streak at three.
Thirty more photos below, all taken between 8-11 August, 2012. Click on the images to view them larger.
All images © Bob Ramsak. All rights reserved. High resolution images available.
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