Sun, 22 Oct 2000

Pin trading a lasting fixture of Olympics past and present

By Primastuti Handayani

SYDNEY (JP): Away from the Olympic efforts in the stadiums and sports arenas of Sydney, another activity as old as the modern Games itself was drawing crowds.

Pin trading went on in a big way and will continue for the next biggest sports extravaganza.

Pins have been a part of the Olympics since the first modern Games were staged by Baron Pierre de Coubertin in 1896 in Athens. At the time, judges, athletes and officials exchanged precursors to today's pins -- cardboard disks imprinted with their appropriate titles.

In the Olympics in Paris in 1904, official pins of different styles and colors were created for various groups, including the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the press.

The Games in Stockholm in 1912 saw the first souvenir and official Olympic Games pins for sale to spectators.

The tradition had begun. Pins have been a part of the Olympics ever since, with the Games held every four years except for breaks during the two world wars.

For the Sydney Olympics, the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (SOCOG) and Coca Cola Company set up pin- trading centers in several parks, including Belmore Park and the biggest site in Darling Harbour.

Thus the foreigners who descended on Sydney from Sept. 15 to Oct. 1 were not only there to enjoy the Olympics at Olympic Park in Homebush Bay, about a 30-minute train ride from downtown Sydney.

Many of them were also there to engage in their hobby of pin collecting.

Many of them displayed their collection along the harbor. Most of the items were in the Olympic series, starting from the countdown, torch relay, pictogram and sponsorship series.

One of the Olympic sponsors, Coca Cola, even set up a special tent selling Coca Cola pin collections.

Pin trader Barnar Lie of Malaysia said he started collecting Olympic pins four years ago to celebrate the Sydney Games.

"I got some of them from my friends working at the sponsors' companies. I also bought similar ones to be traded with others," he said.

Lie offered his pins from A$20 to the highest price of A$150 for the torch relay collection. However, he was open to discussion with other traders.

He said he judged the pin from its design, exclusivity and theme.

Another trader, Frederic Garriga of Spain, said he started collecting pins with the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

"Why do I like pins? Because I love them," he said.

Garriga not only displayed his collection on Olympic themes but also on cartoon themes, such as the Mickey Mouse and Tweety series.

He also collects the Coca Cola series.

"The more you collect pins, the more you are amazed by their various and excellent designs. They are very beautiful."

Garriga, who is from Barcelona, said the main reason for him to come to Sydney was for the pin-trading tradition.

"It's nice to see new designs and meet other collectors."

A foreign reporter, who requested anonymity, said that he had spent nearly US$200 to collect the 1996 Olympic pin series. He also collected pins from other Olympics and other major sports events, including the Asian Games.

"Whenever my friend is assigned abroad, I never ask for anything but pins. I'm crazy for pins. I collect them in a special cupboard at my house."

Adults were not the only ones inspecting the pins and making their choices. Youngsters also crowded the various stalls, asking questions about prices and the history of the pins on offer.

They will be the collectors of the future and will probably be on hand four years from now as pin collectors and traders flock to Athens, the host of the 2004 Olympics, to keep the tradition alive.