A podium (plural podia) is a platform that is used to raise something to a short distance above its surroundings. It derives from the Greek πόδι (foot). In architecture a building can rest on a large podium. Podia can also be used to raise people, for instance the conductor of an orchestra stands on a podium as do many public speakers. Podium has also come to mean the object a speaker stands behind and sets papers or books upon even when it is at floor level, though the traditional term for that item is lectern.
In sports, a type of podium is used to honor the top three competitors in events such as the Olympics. In the Olympics a three level podium is used, the highest level in the centre holds the gold medalist, to their right is a somewhat lower one for the silver medalist. To the left of the gold medalist is an even lower platform for the bronze medalist. In many sports, results in the top three of a competition are often referred to as podiums, or podium finishes. In some individual sports, "podiums" is an official statistic, referring to the number of top three results an athlete has achieved over the course of a season or career.
First use at Olympics
According to Professor Emeritus Robert K. Barney, the University of Western Ontario's founding director of Western's International Centre for Olympic Studies, the idea of having winning athletes mount a podium while they received their medals, is a Canadian idea born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1930.
Professor Barney's 25-page research paper in the International Journal of Olympic Studies indicates podia were first used at the 1930 British Empire Games (now Commonwealth Games) in Hamilton and subsequently during the 1932 Olympic Summer Games in Los Angeles and Winter Games in Lake Placid.
Usage in motorsport
In many forms of motorsport, the three top-placed drivers in a race stand on a podium for the trophy ceremony. In an international series, the national anthem of the winning driver, and the winning team or constructor may be played and the flags of the drivers' countries are hoisted above them.
Following the presentation of the trophies, the drivers will often spray champagne over each other and their team-members watching below, a tradition started by Dan Gurney following the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The drivers will generally refrain from spraying champagne if a fatality or major accident occurs during the event.
The term has become common parlance in the media, where a driver may be said to "be heading for a podium finish" or "just missing out on a podium" when he is heading for, or just misses out on a top three finish.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, the highest level of stock car racing in the United States, does not use a podium in post-game events or statistics. Instead, the winning driver and team celebrate in victory lane, and top-five and top-ten finishes are recognized statistically.
The IRL IndyCar Series does not use a podium at the Indianapolis 500 or the Bombardier Learjet 550. The Indy 500 has a long tradition of the winning driver and team celebrating in victory lane, while Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage has stated that victory lane should be reserved for the winner of the race. However, the series does use a podium at all other races, particularly road course events.