2014 Olympics: Minerals Play a Vital Role

Posted on February 24, 2014 by Minerals Make Life

Sunday, Feb. 23, marked the official closing ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. As the world watched, spectators were awed by the exciting events broadcast across the globe. Not only do the Olympic Games bring the world’s top athletes together, they also bring a fusion of science and technology to the international stage. Since 776 BC, the year of the first recorded Olympic Games, minerals have always played a crucial role helping athletes accomplish their feats and rewarding the victors. While the ancient Greeks were confined to the use of clay, copper, bronze and iron, and today’s games use an extensive quantity of minerals.

The minerals used by the Olympic organizers for the 2014 games include nearly every element on the Periodic Table. From the fireworks at the opening and closing ceremonies to the daily functions of the Olympic Village, minerals play a central role.  Here are just a few mineral facts from this year’s games:

  • While the Olympic torch was originally made out of wood; today, the torch has an aluminum body supported by steel, copper and polymer fittings. According to the 2014 Sochi Olympic organizers, close to 14,000 torches have been made to withstand the volatile Russian climate.
  • The sports equipment used by the Olympic athletes is composed of minerals ranging from steel, aluminum and fiberglass to mineral-based fibers and specialty steel alloys. For example, today’s skis are made from aluminum, titanium, carbon fiber and boron, while ski boots use ceramic fibers that include aluminum, lithium, clay and titanium. Finally, ice skates have chrome-plated, carbon-steel blades.
  • The iconic medals awarded to the world’s top athletes are comprised entirely of minerals. Each gold medal contains gold and silver; each silver medal contains silver; and each bronze medal contains copper, tin and zinc. According to the organizers, 1,300 medals will be awarded in the Olympic and Paralympic Games this year.

Were it not for these minerals, the 2014 Winter Olympics would be missing the vital elements that allow for and highlight the successes of the world’s most talented athletes.  As we continue to fuse science and technology together on an international scale, we must remember that streamlined access to U.S. minerals will help the U.S. remain at the forefront of global innovation.

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