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The first 2022 Winter Olympic medals have been awarded. Here's what they look like

Norway's team (L-R) Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, Tarjei Boe, Tiril Eckhoff and Johannes Thingnes Boe celebrate their first place in the podium during the medal ceremony in the Biathlon Mixed Relay 4x6km (W+M) event on February 05, 2022 at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Centre during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games. (Photo by Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP) (Photo by TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP via Getty Images)
Norway's team, from left, Marte Olsbu Roeiseland, Tarjei Boe, Tiril Eckhoff and Johannes Thingnes Boe celebrate their first place finish during the medal ceremony in the Biathlon Mixed Relay 4x6km event on Feb. 5, 2022 at the Beijing Olympics.

Dozens of athletes from 18 countries and counting are returning home with a gold, silver or bronze medal in their luggage after the first few days of competition at the Beijing Winter Games. Among them is Norway's Therese Johaug, who won the first gold medal of the Games in the women's 7.5 km + 7.5 km skiathlon.On Sunday, American snowboarder Julia Marino took silver in the women's snowboard slopestyle final — netting the U.S. its first medal in Beijing. Each host city takes their own twist to the design of the awarded medals — often infusing them with special meaning — and making the awards that much more special to the winning athletes. This year, Chinese organizers looked to the past and their own culture for inspiration.

Organizers nodded to their 2008 Summer Games

The 2022 Winter Games medals are called "Tong Xin," meaning "together as one." For the design, Chinese organizers said they pulled from their country's tradition and culture to influence the look of the medals. Since Beijing is a two-time Olympic host city, organizers said they wanted to include a nod to the 2008 Summer Games in the design. Lin Cunzhen, the director of arts for the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee, said organizers pulled from similar design choices used in 2008. "We used jade into the design of the medals, which is in line with the 2008 Olympic medals. It's a reflection of Beijing being a two-time Olympic city," she said. The use of jade, a precious stone, has its roots in ancient Chinese history, Lin told reporters. The medals feature five rings, and the carved designs around their perimeters are based on traditional Chinese calligraphy. "XXIV Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022" is also engraved on the back along with its Chinese translation.

In lieu of flowers, athletes get their own mascot

Like the medals, host cities also take their own spin on the traditional flower arrangements given to athletes at the podium. During the Tokyo Olympics, organizers gave medal winners a small bouquet of yellow, green and deep-blue flowers tied with a bow. The elements of the bouquet were meant to symbolize Japan rising from the devastating earthquake and tsunami in 2011, which killed thousands. During the 2016 Rio Summer Games, winners received 3-D sculptures of the city's Olympics logo.This year, as soon as their event is finished and they are standing on the podium, athletes are handed specially made figurines of the Beijing 2022 mascot, Bing Dwen Dwen.Designers chose China's national animal, the giant panda, as the mascot of the entire Games. In the Chinese language, "Bing" has several meanings — including (appropriately) "ice." The panda's name also symbolizes purity and strength, according to the mascot's creator. He wears an excited smile and a translucent astronaut suit — a nod to technologies of the future, according to Olympics.com. Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.