MY OLYMPICS JOURNEY: Pins … they’re a habit and a state of mind

When I arrived at my first Olympics in Vancouver in 2010, I didn’t understand pin trading.

I grasped the concept. I had been told about the concept and advised to bring some 11Alive pins to trade. But I ignored the advice. Pin trading sounded silly, and I didn’t get why it was a big deal.

By the time I left Vancouver, I had become a full-fledged pin convert.

Some people definitely come to the Olympics to collect pins. They value the more expensive ones, look to make deals with other traders and fans, and approach the objects from the perspective of a hobbyist. Most pin traders, though, seem to approach it for the social element. They want to trade pins so they can remember the stories behind them. They want to be able to look at their pins years later and instantly transport themselves back to when they received them.

I find myself doing this more regularly than I would have expected. I have kept my pin chains from the 2010 and 2014 Winter Games, and I still check them out on occasion and revel in the memories.

Already in 2016, I have snagged some great pins … and stories.

Here are a few of my favorites so far:


This is the havaiana sandal, which is extremely popular in Rio. Gift shops sell them, and NBC made pins out of their shape. I wanted this one the moment I saw it.


I did a piece on The Atlanta Pin Collectors Club, and they provided me with this classic from the ’96 Games — special, they say, because it was made in the USA.


Coca-Cola always provides an absurd amount of pins with fascinating designs. This one pays homage to the host country’s colors.


A few of us were walking by the Access Hollywood desk when a producer said, “Have you guys gotten our pins yet?” Then we did.


I work with colleagues from a variety of stations, including WTLV-TV out of Jacksonville. I love trading pins and keeping those stations close to my heart.


I did a story early in the Games on the first female swimmer in the history of Yemen. She happens to be a local teenager from metro Atlanta. Her delegation had a few pins to spare.


Finally, here is my favorite pin so far. It comes from my friends at KSL-TV in Salt Lake Utah. Their pin? It spins. I even recorded a Facebook video with their reporters, conceding defeat in the great pin battle of the affiliates.

The Games are still young. The pins can still be traded. I simply want the memories to keep getting collected.

Matt Pearl is the author of the Telling the Story blog and podcast. Feel free to comment below or e-mail Matt at

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