Olympic Torch designs range from awesome (Sydney) to functional (Montreal, it looks how you expect a torch to look) to rather ugly (many others), such that I had a hard time making my list. This list will be easier to assemble. Because medals have been handed out at each of the modern Olympic Games, there is a larger design pool. You will notice from the gallery, that for the Summer Games from 1928-2000, all the medals had the same front (obverse) design, and many had the same reverse design. The Winter Games medals had no such apparent regulation, hence each design being different and my top 4 designs are all from Winter Games.
1. Lillehammer, Norway, Winter 1994: I like the idea of putting a disk of rock into the medal design. You have to tell people “I won a gold medal, but it’s mostly granite.” However, the unique marbling pattern in each piece of granite ensures that every medal looks different. (All photos from BBC News.)
2. Albertville, France, Winter 1992: The large glass portion certainly pretties it up, lending an “icy” feel to the medal, and it is one of the larger medals, physically. Either Kristi Yamaguchi has a real small hand, or the medal is real big.
3. Torino, Italy, Winter 2006: I like the lack of verbiage on the faces of the medal, instead printing it on the edge, and having the curved lines intimate ski tracks through fresh powder. Bonus points because the ribbon can be unwoven and you have a bare medal with a hole in the middle, and shiny all around.
4. Nagano, Japan, Winter 1998: The obverse looks like three medals in one – the larger, outer ring, the lower circle with the colorful logo, and the upper dark lacquer circle, all make a nice contrast. The off-center lacquer circle on the reverse adds interest, versus being placed dead-center.
7. Beijing, China, Summer 2008: Carrying over the new obverse design, the reverse uses perfect circles, which I’m sure is symbolic of something, (creating a bulls-eye effect) with a ring of jade around the center medallion with the logo.
8. Barcelona, Spain, Summer 1992: The reverse is very sparse, and I’m not sure if the icon above the rings is a person or something from a Mah Jongg tile.
10. Seoul, South Korea, Summer 1988: Another traditional symbol of the Olympics on the reverse, the dove of peace, although the bird shape looks like a figure skating carving, which wouldn’t happen during the summer.
11. Grenoble, France, Winter 1968: These were the first medals to have an event-specific design on the reverse, which would make it harder to lie that you won a bronze in the Super-G instead of curling.