The U.K.'s Royal Mail is celebrating Team GB gold medallists at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by issuing stamps bearing their images, and by painting the mailboxes closest to their homes in gold.p> Team GB's first gold medalists were rowers Helen Glover and Heather Stanning. Stamps bearing the image of the two women celebrating their victory were delivered by a special fleet of 90 Royal Mail vehicles to 500 selected post offices within 24 hours of their winning row. Within a week, an additional 4,700 post offices will also sell the Olympic-themed designs.
The second set of stamps commemorates Bradley Wiggins, the cyclist with the famous sideburns who won the men's cycling time trials at Hampton Court Palace. Team GB have had a slow start to the Olympics, but the Royal Mail will be busier after the home country's gold medal success in the shooting, cycling and canoeing events towards the end of the first week.
The public is encouraged to collect the full set of winners' stamps, each of which carries a picture of the winner or winners set on a white background with gold writing proclaiming, "Gold Medal Winner." The stamps can be bought at the post office, online or over a special phone-line open 12 hours a day, for about $5.60 for a sheet of half a dozen stamps. Customers are encouraged to buy a subscription, based on Team GB winning the same number of gold medals -- 19 -- that the U.K. brought home from Beijing in the 2008 Olympics. If the U.K. wins more, the 20th stamp is free, but the price will be adjusted if the U.K. wins more than 21 or fewer than 19 gold medals.
Red has been the standard color for the iconic U.K. mailboxes -- known as pillar boxes -- since 1874, but they will be turned gold in honor of all Team GB Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists as a way to help residents of their home towns to celebrate the historic victories.
A map of all the locations of the gold post boxes, as they are painted gold, will be available at www.goldpostboxes.com. The pillar boxes were originally painted green to blend in with the landscape, but the red color was introduced in 1874 to make them more visible. It took 10 years to repaint all the post boxes, and the Royal Mail now maintains 115,000 red post boxes across the U.K.
A Royal Mail statement described the gold post boxes as "a highly visible and fitting way to recognize the successes of Team GB and ParalympicsGB gold medal wins during the games."
The fast-turnaround commemorative stamps are a first for the Royal Mail. However, they did produce Olympic stamps during the last Olympic Games in London in 1948, when the stamps bore a simple design carrying the five Olympic rings.