1952 Summer Olympics

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Games of the XV Olympiad
A soild blue background is intruded on its left side by a structure, shaded in white, representing the tower and stand of the Helsinki Olympic Stadium. The Olympic rings, also white, lie at the top of the blue background, partly obscured by the stadium's tower. The word "1952" is written in white in the middle of the blue background, while "XV Olympia Helsinki" is written in blue, beneath the image.
Finnish postage stamp featuring the Helsinki Olympic Stadium
Host cityHelsinki, Finland
Athletes4,955 (4,436 men, 519 women)
Events149 in 17 sports (23 disciplines)
OpeningJuly 19
ClosingAugust 3
Opened byPresident Juho Kusti Paasikivi
CauldronHannes Kolehmainen
Paavo Nurmi
StadiumHelsingin Olympiastadion
London 1948 Melbourne 1956
Oslo 1952 Cortina 1956

The 1952 Summer Olympics (Finnish: Kesäolympialaiset 1952; Swedish: Olympiska sommarspelen 1952), officially known as the Games of the XV Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event held in Helsinki, Finland from July 19 to August 3, 1952.

Helsinki had been earlier selected to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were cancelled due to World War II. It is the northernmost city at which a summer Olympic Games have been held. These were the first games to be held in a non-Indo-European language speaking country. It was also the Olympic Games at which the most number of world records were broken until surpassed by the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.[1] The Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Thailand, and Saarland made their Olympic debuts in Helsinki 1952.

Host city selection[edit]

Helsinki was chosen as the host city over bids from Amsterdam and five American cities at the 40th IOC Session on June 21, 1947, in Stockholm, Sweden. Minneapolis and Los Angeles finished tied for second in the final voting.

The voting results in chart below:[2]

1952 Summer Olympics bidding results[3]
City Country Round 1 Round 2
Helsinki  Finland 14 15
Minneapolis  United States 4 5
Los Angeles  United States 4 5
Amsterdam  Netherlands 3 3
Detroit  United States 2
Chicago  United States 1
Philadelphia  United States 0


Paavo Nurmi and the Olympic Flame

Participation of the Soviet Union[edit]

For the first time, a team from the Soviet Union participated in the Olympics. The first gold medal for the USSR was won by Nina Romashkova in the women's discus throwing event.

As the 1952 Olympics took place during the early years of the Cold War, during the height of the Korean War and the Red Scare, less than two years before the McCarthy hearings in the United States, American fear of the mystery team from a nation that had shunned international athletic contact since 1917 was at a height.

“There will be seventy-one nations in the Olympics at Helsinki. The United States would like to beat all of them but the only one that counts is Soviet Russia. The communist propaganda machine must be silenced so that there can’t be even one distorted bleat out of it in regard to the Olympics. In sports the Red brothers have reached the put-up-or-shut-up stage. Let’s shut them up.

— Arthur Daley, sportswriter, The New York Times

Much of what was written before the Games speculated on the Soviets’ athletic prowess and scoffed at their professionalism, yet no one really knew what to expect from them on the playing field. The general consensus was that Soviet sports stars were well-compensated by their government, which should have rendered them ineligible for the Olympics. Meanwhile, American athletes who wished to compete in the Olympics were forbidden from accepting payment for coaching or even college scholarships.

“I guess old Joe Stalin thinks he is going to show up our soft capitalistic Americans. We’ve got to cut him down to size.”

— Bob Hope

The Soviets also turned the athletic competition into a metaphor for political propaganda.

“Every record won by our sportsmen, every victory in international contests, graphically demonstrates to the whole world the advantages and strength of the Soviet system.”

The Soviets played up this mysterious angle in Helsinki as they demanded separate lodgings for their team and the other participating Iron Curtain nations. Team officials insisted on isolating their athletes in cramped, overcrowded dorms to prevent too much interaction with noncommunist athletes or attempted defections.

Although the U.S. won a narrow victory in the final medal count, the Soviets made controversial counter-claims of victory due to the different points systems used by the two teams.

New York Times correspondent Harrison Salisbury devoted a story on the final day of the Games to how the Soviets had shown poor sportsmanship by dissenting openly with Olympic officials and referees on a number of occasions.

“Today’s Olympic reports complained against the stalling tactics employed by the American basketball team... Even sharper criticism was meted out to the boxing judges. The Soviet press was plainly disappointed that their track team, which had been expected by the Russians to win several events, failed to take any championships.”

While some of the Soviets’ gripes may have been valid, the American press was quick to depict them as sore losers, disappointed at their own lack of domination.

Soviet Union's loss to political rival Yugoslavia hit Soviet football hard, and after just three games played in the season, CDKA Moscow, who had made up most of the USSR squad, was forced to withdraw from the league and later disbanded. Furthermore, Boris Arkadiev, who coached both USSR and CDKA, was stripped of his Merited Master of Sports of the USSR title.[7]

“There were many more pressures on American athletes because of the Russians than in 1948. They were in a sense the real enemy. You just loved to beat ’em. You just had to beat ’em. It wasn’t like beating some friendly country like Australia.”

— Bob Mathias, decathlon champion in 1948 and 1952[8]


The 1952 Summer Olympics featured 17 different sports encompassing 23 disciplines, and medals were awarded in 149 events. In the list below, the number of events in each discipline is noted in parentheses.

Demonstration sports[edit]


With an annual average temperature of 5.9 °C, Helsinki is one of the coldest cities to have hosted the Summer Olympics.[9]

Participating NOCs[edit]

Participating nations. Pictured in blue are nations participating for the first time. Yellow dot: Helsinki
Number of athletes per country

A total of 69 nations participated in these Games, up from 59 in the 1948 Games. Thirteen nations made their first Olympic appearance in 1952: The Bahamas, the People's Republic of China, Gold Coast (now Ghana), Guatemala, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Netherlands Antilles, Nigeria, Soviet Union (USSR), Thailand, and Vietnam.

Japan and Germany were both reinstated and permitted to send athletes after being banned for 1948 for their instigation of World War II. Due to the division of Germany, German athletes from Saar entered a separate team for the only time. Only West Germany would provide athletes for the actual Germany team, since East Germany refused to participate in a joint German team.

Participating National Olympic Committees

Medal count[edit]

These are the top ten nations that won medals at the 1952 Games.[10]

1 United States40191776
2 Soviet Union22301971
3 Hungary16101642
4 Sweden12131035
5 Italy89421
6 Czechoslovakia73313
7 France66618
8 Finland*631322
9 Australia62311
10 Norway3205
Totals (10 nations)1269791314

50th anniversary coin[edit]

The 50th anniversary of the Helsinki Olympic Games was the main motif for one of the first Finnish euro silver commemorative coins, the €10 silver coin minted in 2002. The reverse depicts part of the Helsinki Olympic Stadium, as well as a section of the 1952 500 markka coin. The obverse has lettering SUOMI FINLAND 10 EURO, a flame, and Finland is the only country highlighted on earth.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bascomb, Neal (2005). The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It. Mariner Books. ISBN 9780618562091.
  2. ^ "International Olympic Committee Vote History". 9 September 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  3. ^ "Past Olympic Host City Election Results". Games Bids. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  4. ^ Mulvenney, Nick (7 August 2008). "Chen Chengda, China's almost Olympian". Reuters. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  5. ^ "On This Day: 1952: 20 July: Zatopek wins gold at Helsinki". BBC News. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  6. ^ 1952 Summer Olympics official report. p. 91. – accessed 1 August 2010.[dead link]
  7. ^ "USSR – Yugoslavia, the Story of Two Different Football Conceptions". russianfootballnews.com. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  8. ^ Erin Redihan (February 8, 2018). "The 1952 Olympic Games, the US, and the USSR". www.processhistory.org. Retrieved June 25, 2018.
  9. ^ Marc Sollinger (February 6, 2014). "The 9 weirdest cities that have hosted the Olympics (and why!)". www.marketplace.org.
  10. ^ Byron, Lee; Cox, Amanda; Ericson, Matthew (4 August 2008). "A Map of Olympic Medals". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 February 2015.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Summer Olympic Games

XV Olympiad (1952)
Succeeded by