We Will Eventually Run Out Of Gold For Olympic Medals, But Don’t Panic


In what year would the Olympic Games be unable to provide gold medals because we had run out of gold? originally appeared on Quora: the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Kynan Eng, tech startups and research, on Quora:

We will run out of gold in the year 207832, if we maintain other uses for gold as long as possible and we recycle gold as we are doing now.

Where can we get gold?

  • Amount of gold in the world: 171,300 tonnes (as of 2013). Of this total, world gold financial reserves comprised 32,803 tonnes (as of 2016).
  • Amonut of gold recycling: peaked at 1728 tonnes in 2014, which is 1.00876% of the amount of gold in the world.
  • Gold usage in jewelery, electronics, dentistry and coins reached 2335 tonnes in 2016, i.e. about 1.363106% of the amount of gold in the world.
  • Around 700 gold medals (2102 including silver and bronze) were given to athletes at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, for 307 gold medal wins (team sports result in more medals being handed out). 99 gold medal winswere recorded at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, so we can guess that 226 medals were handed out. Similarly, 503 gold medal wins (1147 estimated medals) were recorded at the 2012 London Summer Paralympics, and 72 gold medal wins (164 estimated medals) were recorded at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympics.
  • An Olympic gold medal must contain at least 6 grams of gold.

Let’s suppose that we continue to recycle and use up gold for other purposes at the same percentage levels as in 2014. This will allow us to gradually reduce our dependence on gold products. From these statistics, we can calculate the following derived numbers:

  • The amount of gold used for each Summer, Winter, Summer-Paralympic and Winter-Paralympic Games is 4.200 + 1.356 + 6.882 + 0.984 = 13.422 kg.
  • Every Olympiad, the amount of available gold due to recycling increases by 1.04096%.
  • At the same time, the amount of available gold reduces by 1.0556% per Olympiad due to usage in other products.

Each Olympiad, the amount of gold in the world decreases to (Current_gold_amount)*(1+1.0104096–1.010556) – 13.422. This will reach zero after 51454 Olympiads, or 205816 years (the year 207832). That should hopefully be enough time to get people off the idea of gold jewelery and coins, and to find substitutes for gold in electronics and dentistry.


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