|Competition type||Olympic Games|
|Host city||Helsinki, Finland (Venues)|
|Opening ceremony||19 July|
|Closing ceremony||3 August|
|Competition dates||14 July – 3 August|
|OCOG||Organising Committee for the Games of the XV Olympiad|
|Participants||4932 from 69 countries|
|Medal events||149 in 23 disciplines|
|Other events||2 in 2 disciplines|
In 1952, the biggest news from Helsinki was that the Soviets were coming. After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, the USSR had not competed in the Olympics until the Helsinki Games. The world braced for the athletic battles between the Soviet Union and the United States – in effect, a cold-war Olympics. The Soviets were accorded one rather unusual allowance. They were set up in a separate Olympic Village and housed only with athletes from the Eastern Bloc countries of Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, and Czechoslovakia.
Other political problems were becoming more difficult for the IOC to manage. The IOC had to face the question of the two Germanies, the two Koreas, and the two Chinas. The only resolution in 1952 began when Germany was allowed to compete with a titular combined East and West team, although the team had no athletes from East Germany in 1952.
The Opening Ceremony was interrupted by a rather obese young girl in long, flowing robes, who ran around the track, to the extent that she could, ascended the official rostrum and began a peace speech. She was quickly removed. This set the stage for the moment that no Finn present will ever forget.
It is always an exciting moment when the Olympic torch enters the stadium. In 1952 the excitement was palpable when the Finnish crowd realized that the torchbearer was the Finnish hero of heroes, Paavo Nurmi. Although now a 55-year-old, Nurmi carried the torch on high and still had the very familiar stride. Not only the crowd, but even the athletes were excited. They broke ranks to run to the side of the track to get closer to the distance running legend. At the end of one circuit of the track, Nurmi handed the torch to Hannes Kolehmainen, second only to Nurmi among the Finnish pantheon of sporting heroes. The 62-year-old Kolehmainen ascended the stairs of the stadium and lit the Olympic flame at the top of the tower.
Given that the Games were opened by two of the greatest distance runners ever, it was fitting that the 1952 Olympics were dominated by a distance runner who even surpassed a few of their feats. Emil Zátopek, the Czech who had won the 10,000 metres in 1948, was by now the greatest distance runner in the world. He entered the 5,000 and 10,000 metres and won both of them rather easily. His wife, Dana Zátopková, also won a gold medal in the women’s javelin throw. Legend has it that Emil stated that the family battle for gold medals was too close, only 2-1, and so he would win another in the marathon. He had never before run a marathon.
Still, the extra distance did not deter Zátopek. He was running with the favored Jim Peters of Great Britain for the first half of the race when he turned to Peters and asked him if the pace wasn’t a bit fast. Peter replied that it was actually too slow so Zátopek took off and was never seen again by Peters. Zátopek won the race by over 2½ minutes, while Peters failed to finish.
The Americans and the Soviets met several times in these Olympics, most notably in the boxing ring. In 1952 the Americans had the best of it, though the Soviets would improve in the coming years. The press made a big thing out of the medal counts, which were led early by the Soviet Union, although the United States eventually won the most. This too would change in Olympics to come.
Bid voting at the 41st IOC Session in Stockholm on 21 June 1947:
|Round 1||Round 2|
|Los Angeles, California||United States||4||5|
|Minneapolis, Minnesota||United States||4||5|
|Detroit Michigan||United States||2||–|
|Chicago, Illinois||United States||1||–|
|Philadelphia, Pennsylvania||United States||0||–|
Athina (Greece), Lausanne (Switzerland) and Stockholm (Sweden) had entered preliminary bids.
|Officially opened by||Juho Kusti Paasikivi (President)|
|Torchbearer(s)||Hannes Kolehmainen (Lit flame), Paavo Nurmi (Lit secondary flame)|
|Taker of the Athlete's Oath||Heikki Savolainen|
|Canoe Marathon||Fencing||Water Polo|
|Cycling Track||Modern Pentathlon|
|Islamic Republic of Iran||IRI||0||3||4||7|
|Republic of Korea||KOR||0||0||2||2|
|Trinidad and Tobago||TTO||0||0||2||2|
|Henri Saint Cyr||SWE||2||0||0||2|
|Hans von Blixen-Finecke, Jr.||SWE||2||0||0||2|