In a sporting episode of the Olympic Channel series Burning Questions, a bearded host cheerfully explained a brief animated history of Olympic medals, the fairly recent advent of the gold medal, the odds of winning a gold medal and why athletes are often seen biting their gold medals.
The tradition of biting into shiny, gold things dates back to merchants who would bite their coins to make sure they weren’t lead forgeries. That’s because, historically, gold was alloyed with other harder metals to make it harder So if biting the coin left teeth marks, the merchant would know it was a fake. These days, the biting might be for show. But it’s become as much a part of the Olympic tradition as the medals themselves.