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Helsinki 1952

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.

Star performer

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 a demonstration of canoe. 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.

NOCs: 69
Athletes: 4,955 (519 women, 4,436 men)
Events: 149
Volunteers: n/a
Media: n/a

A more formal attribution procedure

A 30-minute presentation by each candidate city, the absences of IOC members from the countries involved during the time of the presentations, and voting up to the point of obtaining an absolute majority before a host city was elected.

The beginning of Olympic numismatics

The first commemorative coin of the modern Olympic Games was made in 1951-52.

Cultural events

Replacement of the art competition by exhibitions.

Women and men competing together

A change in the rules for equestrian competitions meant that, for the first time, women could not only enter, but could compete alongside men in the same "mixed" events.

Two new countries participating in the Games

The USSR and Israel came to the Olympic Games for the first time.


Helsinki 1952. Interior view of the Olympic Stadium during the Opening Ceremony in front of the witnesses.

Official opening of the Games by:
President Juho Paasikivi

Lighting the Olympic Flame by:
Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen (athletics)

Olympic Oath by:
Heikki Savolainen (artistic gymnastics)

Official Oath by:
The officials' oath at an Olympic Summer Games was first sworn in 1972 in Munich.

Helsinki 1952 Emblem

It was composed of the tower of the stadium with the Olympic rings at the top. It was worn as a badge by the dignitaries and VIP guests at the Games.

Helsinki 1952 Medals

On the obverse, the traditional goddess of victory, holding a palm in her left hand and a winner’s crown in her right. A design used since the 1928 Games in Amsterdam, created by Florentine artist Giuseppe Cassioli (ITA -1865-1942) and chosen after a competition organised by the International Olympic Committee. For these Games, the picture of victory is accompanied by the specific inscription: "XV OLYMPIA HELSINKI 1952".

On the reverse, an Olympic champion carried in triumph by the crowd, with the Olympic stadium in the background. N.B: From 1928 to 1968, the medals for the Summer Games were identical. The Organising Committee for the Games in Munich in 1972 broke new ground by having a different reverse which was designed by a Bauhaus representative, Gerhard Marcks.

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Helsinki 1952 Torch

Number of torchbearers: 3 042
Total distance: 7 492 km
Countries crossed: Greece, Denmark, Sweden, and Finland

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Helsinki 1952 Poster

It was the Paavo Nurmi poster, created for the 1940 Games, which were never held because of the Second World War. It was just updated with the dates and the lines around the countries, drawn in red on a globe in the background. 82,000 large format copies were made in nine languages and 33,000 small format copies in 20 languages.

Helsinki 1952 Coins

“The official report of the Organising Committee for the Games of the XV Olympiad”, was published in 1955 and in two separate editions, one in English, and one in Finnish. There were two different types of binding.

  • Helsinki 1952
    • Helsinki 1952

      12 Mar 2014 |
      “The official report of the Organising Committee for the Games of the XV Olympiad”, was published in 1955 and in two separate editions, one in English, and one in Finnish. There were two different types of binding.



India Dominates Hockey


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Helsinki 1952-Heikki SAVOLAINEN (FIN) swears the Olympic oath in the name of the athletes.
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Helsinki 1952-The delegations: Russia (URS).
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Lighting the cauldron (Helsinki 1952)

Paavo Nurmi lights the cauldron at the Opening Ceremony of the Helsinki Olympic Games

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Hurdles Final

24th July 1952: The final of the women's 80 metres hurdles during the Olympic Games at Helsinki. From left to right: Anneliese Seonbuchner of Germany; Marija Golubichnaja of the USSR; Maria Sander of Germany; Shirley B Strickland of Australia (the winner); Fanny Blankers-Koen of Holland; and Jean Desforges. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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Sammy Lee In The Air

American diving champion Sammy Lee in the air during a dive at the 1952 Olympic Games, Helsinki, Finland, mid 1992. (Photo by FPG/Getty Images)
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Lis Hartel-Host (DEN)

Lis Hartel-Host on her horse at a dressage competition


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