Pin trading, a tradition and an Olympic obsession

Pin trading during Olympic Games is a tradition that has been followed by enthusiasts and casual fans since the 19th century. It is the practice of buying, selling, and exchanging collectible pins — most often lapel pins associated with a particular common theme.

Fueled by a passion for their designs, pin badge collecting is a fanatical sideline craze at every Olympic Games. The so-called ‘pin-heads’ have arrived at the Rio 2016 Olympic Park and set up their impromptu swap shops. Most admit that once you start, you just can’t stop.

“I got given a few pins when I was volunteering at the Vancouver 2010 (Winter Olympic Games), and then you just want more, it’s very addicitive,” says Carol Lord, a Canadian attending her fourth Games as a volunteer, for Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola

“These pins on show are just for trading, I have more at home, around 5,000. It’s usually a busy day between pin trading and volunteering, it’s great fun.”

All the pin collectors are  members of the official fan club titled ‘Olympin Collectors Club’. It is expected that about 800 types of pins will be developed in relation to the first edition of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to be staged in South America, resulting in around three million units.

Many of them are already on sale in the official Rio 2016 shops, while many more will be traded around the city during the Games. Pins arose as a way to identify athletes and are now part of Games culture.

Tens of millions of pins are sold at each Games at official shops, while the tradition of swapping and gifting pins creates personal connections between people of different origins, in line with the Olympic and Paralympic values.

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