1952 Helsinki, Finland

The 1952 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XV Olympiad, were a multi-sport event held in Helsinki, Finland in 1952. Helsinki had been earlier given the 1940 Summer Olympics, which were cancelled due to World War II.

It is famous for being the Olympic Games at which the most number of world records were broken, before the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. 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.

Highlights of the Helsinki Olympics

ñTo the enjoyment of the Finnish crowd, the Olympic Flame was lit by two Finnish heroes, runners Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen.

ñFor 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, and the Soviet women’s gymnastics team won the first of its eight consecutive gold medals.

ñIsrael made its Olympic debut. The Jewish state had been unable to participate in the 1948 Games because of its War of Independence. A previous Palestine Mandate team had boycotted the 1936 Games in protest of the Nazi regime.

ñThe Republic of China (Chinese Taipei/Taiwan), listed as “China (Formosa)”, withdrew from the Games on July 20, in protest of the allowing of the People’s Republic of China’s men and women to compete.

ñHungary, a country of 9 million inhabitants, won 42 medals at these games, coming in third place behind the much more populous United States and Soviet Union.

ñHungary’s Golden Team won the football tournament, beating Yugoslavia 2–0 in the final.

ñGermany and Japan were invited after being barred in 1948. Following the post-war occupation and partition, three German states had been established. Teams from the Federal Republic of Germany and the Saarland (which joined the FRG after 1955) participated; the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) was absent. Though they won 24 medals, the fifth-highest total at the Games, German competitors failed to win a gold medal for the only time.

ñRules in equestrianism now allowed non-military officers to compete, including women. Lis Hartel of Denmark became the first woman in the sport to win a medal.

ñEmil Zátopek of Czechoslovakia won three gold medals in the 5,000 m, 10,000 m and the Marathon (which he had never run before).

ñThe India national field hockey team won its fifth consecutive gold.

ñBob Mathias of the United States became the first Olympian to successfully defend his decathlon title with a total score of 7,887 points.

ñJosy Barthel of Luxembourg pulled a major surprise by winning the 1500 m.

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.