Sochi champions who won a gold medal Feb. 15 are set to receive 10 meteorite medals after the Olympic Games to mark one year since a small asteroid fell over the Russian region of Chelyabinsk and broke into hundreds of fragments. The asteroid fragments ended up either in Russian laboratories, on the market, in museums or in 10 of the gold medals that Sochi champions will receive after the Games. The meteorite which entered the Earth’s atmosphere is perceived to be the worst asteroid strike that humankind has experienced since 1908.
To honor the day when a meteorite “rained over” Chelyabinsk and damaged thousands of buildings, 50 meteorite-adorned medallions were made, out of which Sochi champions are set to receive 10 meteorite medals after the Olympic Games. One is offered to the regional Chelyabinsk museum, another will remain in Sochi and the others will be offered to private collections. Today, fragments of two to three grams of the meteorite sell for $50 to $75, but larger pieces are worth over $200.
Alexei Betekhtin, the culture minister for the Chelyabinsk region, mentioned in an official statement that the athletes who won gold Feb. 15 will receive meteorite medals, “because both the meteorite strike and the Olympic Games are global events.”
The bonus medals that Sochi champions are expected to receive after the Olympic Games were designed out of gold and silver, and feature a model inspired by the footage of the asteroid’s fall as seen by a car-mounted camera during the meteorite “rain.” But contrary to rumors, the meteorite medals are awarded separately to the champions, and not as part of the traditional podium ceremony.
As Sochi champions are expecting their meteorite medals, another asteroid is approaching the Earth. Although experts say it will not enter the planet’s atmosphere, all eyes are on the event which is due to happen in about 10 hours. The asteroid that fell over Russia injured over 1,500 people, who required medical attention for cuts due to shattered windows, eye pain because of the asteroid brightness and ultraviolet burns and broken spines.
Plans on Hold
Sochi champions who were supposed to receive meteorite medals Feb. 15 did not take possession of the special gifts. Gilbert Felli, the Sochi Olympics executive director, stated that the International Olympic Committee wishes to award the meteorite pieces only if they are offered after the Games, in a separate ceremony: “We know the local people of the region there wanted to give an extra gift to the athletes who will get the medals (on Saturday).”
The gold medals, however, are the ones officially awarded by the International Olympic Committee, and “there is no extra gift from this region of Russia during the medal presentation.”
Therefore, the Sochi champions are still set to receive 10 meteorite medals but contrary to rumors, these will be offered after the Olympic Games. Fifty medals were created to honor the day in which the Russian sky was brighter than ever and hundreds of pieces of the 20-meter wide asteroid fell over Earth. The largest chunk fell into a lake near the city of Chebarkul, and weighed 650 kilograms.
By Gabriela Motroc