What is a Podium?

A podium is an elevated stage or platform. It is raised to some feet higher than the surroundings. Podiums are used for public speakers, musicians, and performers etc to display their talent and enthrall the people who come to see them perform. Since the performers are the ones who entertain or motivate the public, they are ‘raised’ to an elevated stand so that they appear distinctive and singular from the audience. 

The word ‘podium’ is frequently used in sports, especially when honoring the winners in sporting events. An obvious example is the Olympics, where in a three level podium comes into play. The highest elevation in the center belongs to the gold medalist; the one to the right is a lower elevation, given to the silver medalist. The elevation to the left of the gold medalist is the lowest platform among the winners and this is reserved for the bronze medalist. However there are some types of sports like boating and rowing which do not encourage podiums.

Did you know that podium actually had an “Olympic” history behind it? If you delve into the research papers of Professor Emeritus Robert. K Barney, the Western Ontario University's founding director of Western's International Centre for Olympic Studies; you will see that the concept of podium originated in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. The report of Professor Barney mentioned in the International Journal of Olympic studies has revealed that podiums were initially used in the British Empire Games in the year 1930. These games are now referred to as Commonwealth Games.

The act of winners to climb aboard the steps to go to the podium and collect their medals and citations began to take shape from the year 1932 in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles and Winter Olympic games in Lake Placid. Thus one can arguably state, that players who step up the podium to receive their medals in the next Olympics are actually stepping afoot on the slice of Canadian history.

In fact the very idea that winners stand with dignity and pride above the roaring and cheering crowd while receiving the medals was mooted in Hamilton itself. Professor Barney who was on the lookout for background information about the 1932 Olympic games found enough data to support his stand on podiums. He found letters and documents which testified about the arguments and opinions that the organizers of 1932 Summer Olympics and Winter Olympic games had with then IOC president Henri Baillet-Latour. The debate was on how the winners would be felicitated.

The IOC president suggested the organizers to create an elevated platform so that they could feel the athletes and sportstars feel special and take pride in their achievements. Metaphorically speaking, he took a definite stand about why the sports winners should stand on the podium. His opinion was finally respected and the winners were called upon to the podium to collect their medals. Until then, the kings and queens stood above the winners and gave the awards and medals.

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