What happens when US Olympic athletes lose a medal?
Until 2020, at least, they turn to Boston’s Liberty Mutual
Olympians are those rarest of athletes, striving for years to win a medal. But if they lose or damage their prize, they’re stuck just like the rest of us, filling out an insurance claim form.
Until the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance will be the company insuring those gold, silver, and bronze medals for the US team.
Liberty Mutual extended its sponsorship contract with the US Olympic Committee through the Tokyo games and been named the “Official Protection Partner of Team USA Olympic Medals,” the company recently announced.
That designation, “provides a more tangible connection to what we do as company,” said Glenn Greenberg, a spokesman for the insurer.
Liberty Mutual signed on in 2013 to become the first company to insure the US Olympic team’s medals. Under that contract, the company covered the 2014 winter games in Sochi and this summer’s games in Rio. Now, Liberty Mutual will also insure medals for the winter games in PyeongChang in 2018 and the summer games in Tokyo two years later.
Individual US Olympic and Paralympic athletes took home 100 medals in Sochi in 2014, and to date, nobody has filed a claim with Liberty Mutual, Greenberg said.
Not that it would break the bank for the Fortune 100 company. The medals, while priceless to the athletes, do have a dollar value — and it isn’t that much.
In Sochi, each gold medal was worth about $560, the price-tag for a silver medal was $320, and the bronze — befitting its status in the medal hierarchy — came in a distant third, worth about $5.
More than a century ago, athletes actually received medals made entirely of gold. But these days, even the top prize is mostly silver, with a touch of gold plating. If the 531-gram medal was pure gold, it would cost more than $24,000 based on the current price of gold, which hit a 15-month high on Friday.
If an athlete loses or damages his or her medal, or if somebody steals it, insurance will cover the cost for the International Olympic Committee to make a replacement, Greenberg said. With labor and materials that could cost between $500 and $1,400, he said.
While medal losses are rare, such post-game calamities have been known to happen. After all, victory means lots of parties, nonstop public appearances, and plenty of chances to lose track of that shiny award. Snowboarder Shaun White has famously admitted to misplacing his gold medals a few times, finding one in the seat pocket of the family car and retrieving another from the dry cleaners. In the 1988 Seoul Games, an Italian rower clutched his gold medal for just a few moments before a teammate jumped in the water with him and knocked the prize to the bottom of the Han River.
Liberty Mutual expects to extend coverage of their Sochi and Rio winners through the end of 2020.
But if something happens to their award after that, the athletes could be stuck with a Olympic-sized headache.