New countries join
Israel and the Soviet Union entered the Olympic Games for the first time, and fears that Cold War rivalries would lead to clashes proved unfounded. Particularly impressive were the Soviet women gymnasts who won the team competition easily, beginning a streak that would continue for 40 years until the Soviet Union broke up into separate republics.
Czech long-distance runner Emil Zátopek produced a brilliant display of running. He won the 5,000m, successfully defended his 10,000m title and then took his third gold medal in his first-ever marathon to complete a triple that remains unique in Olympic history.
Equestrian becomes mixed
A change in the rules for equestrian competitions allowed women not only to enter, but also to compete alongside men in mixed events. One of the first women to do so was Lis Hartel of Denmark. Paralysed below the knees, Hartel had to be helped on and off her horse. Despite this, she claimed silver in the equestrian dressage.
For you, Dad
Back in 1924, Bill Havens was chosen to represent the US in coxed eights rowing. However, he declined in order to stay home with his wife, who was expecting their first child. Twenty-eight years later, that child competed in Helsinki. His name was Frank Havens, and he claimed gold in the Canadian singles 10,000m canoeing event.
Athletes 4,955 (519 women, 4,436 men)