1952 Summer Olympics

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.[2] The Soviet Union, the People's Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Thailand, and Saarland made their Olympic debuts in Helsinki 1952.

Games of the XV Olympiad
Helsinki 1952
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.
Host cityHelsinki, Finland
Athletes4,955 (4,436 men, 519 women)
Events149 in 17 sports (23 disciplines)
OpeningJuly 19
ClosingAugust 3
Opened by
StadiumHelsingin Olympiastadion
London 1948 Melbourne 1956
Oslo 1952 Cortina 1956

Host city selection

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:[3]

1952 Summer Olympics bidding results[4]
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


Olympiatuli 1952
Paavo Nurmi and the Olympic Flame
  • These were the final Olympic Games organised under the IOC presidency of Sigfrid Edström.
  • Israel 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.
  • Indonesia made its Olympic debut with three athletes.
  • The newly established People's Republic of China (PRC) participated in the Olympics for the first time, although only one swimmer (Wu Chuanyu) of its 40-member delegation arrived in time to take part in the official competition.[5] The PRC would not return to the Summer Olympics until Los Angeles 1984.
  • The Republic of China (Taiwan) withdrew from the Games on July 20, in protest of the IOC decision to allow athletes from the People's Republic of China to compete.[6]
  • 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. Only after I had felt a heavy golden circle in my hand, I realized what happened. I am the first Soviet Olympic Champion, you know, the first record-holder of the 15th Olympiad...Tears were stinging my eyes. How happy I was!... After her win at the 1952 Summer Olympics.

In Russian:Только ощутив в руке тяжелый золотой кружок, я осознала, что произошло. Ведь я первая советская олимпийская чемпионка, первая рекордсменка XV Олимпиады... Слезы щипали глаза. Как я была счастлива!...

  • The Soviets 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 first meeting between the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia in football is still the most famous one. On the political level, the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and the Yugoslav leader Josip Tito split in 1948, which resulted in Yugoslavia being excluded from the Communist Information Bureau. The origin of the conflict was Tito’s refusal to submit to Stalin’s interpretations and visions of politics and in process becoming a Soviet satellite state. Before the match, both Tito and Stalin sent telegrams to their national teams, which showed just how important it was for the two head of states. Yugoslavia led 5–1, but a Soviet comeback in the last 15 minutes resulted in a 5–5 draw. The match was replayed, Yugoslavia winning 3–1. The defeat to the archrivals 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]
  • The Olympic Flame was lit by two Finnish heroes, runners Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen. Nurmi first lit the cauldron inside the stadium, and later the flame was relayed to the stadium tower where Kolehmainen lit it. Only the flame in the tower was burning throughout the Olympics.
  • Hungary's Golden Team won the football tournament, beating Yugoslavia 2–0 in the final.
  • Germany 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.
  • Rules 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.
  • Emil Zátopek of Czechoslovakia won three gold medals in the 5000 m, 10,000 m and the Marathon (which he had never run before).
  • The India national field hockey team won its fifth consecutive gold under captaincy of Kunwar Digvijay Singh
  • Bob Mathias of the United States became the first Olympian to successfully defend his decathlon title with a total score of 7,887 points.
  • Josy Barthel of Luxembourg pulled a major surprise by winning the 1500 m.
  • Eva Perón, the celebrated First Lady of Argentina, died of cancer in July 1952 while the Olympics were taking place, so a memorial was held at the Games for the Argentine team.[8]


Finnish postage stamp featuring the Helsinki Olympic Stadium

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


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

1952 Summer Olympic games countries
Participating nations. Pictured in blue are nations participating for the first time. Yellow dot: Helsinki
1952 Summer olympics team numbers
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

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

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


  1. ^ a b "Factsheet - Opening Ceremony of the Games of the Olympiad" (PDF) (Press release). International Olympic Committee. September 13, 2013. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 August 2016. Retrieved 22 December 2018.
  2. ^ Bascomb, Neal (2005). The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It. Mariner Books. ISBN 9780618562091.
  3. ^ "International Olympic Committee Vote History". 9 September 2013. Retrieved 24 February 2015.
  4. ^ "Past Olympic Host City Election Results". Games Bids. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  5. ^ Mulvenney, Nick (7 August 2008). "Chen Chengda, China's almost Olympian". Reuters. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  6. ^ "On This Day: 1952: 20 July: Zatopek wins gold at Helsinki". BBC News. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  7. ^ "USSR – Yugoslavia, the Story of Two Different Football Conceptions". russianfootballnews.com. Retrieved November 27, 2017.
  8. ^ 1952 Summer Olympics official report. p. 91. – accessed 1 August 2010.
  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

Preceded by
Summer Olympic Games

XV Olympiad (1952)
Succeeded by
Athletics at the 1952 Summer Olympics

At the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, 33 athletics events were contested, 24 for men and 9 for women. There were a total number of 963 participating athletes from 57 countries.

Basketball at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Basketball at the 1952 Summer Olympics was the third appearance of the sport. 23 nations entered the competition.

The top six teams at the 1948 Summer Olympics qualified automatically, as did the 1950 World Champion (Argentina), the top two at the 1951 European championships (USSR and Czechoslovakia), and the host country (Finland). Thirteen other nations competed in a preliminary round to determine the last six places in the sixteen-team Olympic tournament.

Boxing at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Final results for the boxing competition at the 1952 Summer Olympics. The events were held at Messuhalli. From this edition of the Olympic Games, the bronze medal match was abolished.

Czechoslovakia at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Czechoslovakia competed at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. 99 competitors, 86 men and 13 women, took part in 70 events in 11 sports.

Equestrian at the 1952 Summer Olympics

The equestrian events at the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics included dressage, eventing, and show jumping. All three disciplines had both individual and team competitions. The competitions were held from 28 July to 3 August 1952.

One of the biggest changes at the 1952 Olympics was the demographics of competitors. Before this, most of the riders were officers (41 of 44 starters at the 1948 Olympics were riding in uniform), whereas the Helsinki Games saw over 50% of competitors from the civilian ranks. Additionally, women were now allowed to compete for the first time in equestrian events. At the 1952 Games, they were permitted in the dressage competition, although prohibited from the jumping (per a ruling in 1951) and most definitely not in eventing which was considered too dangerous. A total of 4 women competed out of 138 riders.

25 nations competed: Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Soviet Union, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the USA. This was the first appearance for Canada, Egypt, Korea, and the Soviet Union. Russia had sent riders to the 1912 Games, but had not competed since. The youngest participant was Walter Staley (19) from the United States, while the oldest rider was the Danish Kristian Jensen (63).

Finland at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Finland was the host nation for the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki. 258 competitors, 228 men and 30 women, took part in 139 events in 18 sports. The nation won 22 medals.

Football at the 1952 Summer Olympics

The Football tournament at the 1952 Summer Olympics was won by Hungary.The games signalled the arrival (to Western Europeans at least) of the Hungarian national football team – the "Magical Magyars". Ferenc Puskás later said of the 1952 competition: "It was during the Olympics that our football first started to flow with real power." It was during the Games that Stanley Rous of English Football Association invited the Hungarians to play a friendly at Wembley the following year.

France at the 1952 Summer Olympics

France competed at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. 245 competitors, 214 men and 31 women, took part in 131 events in 18 sports.

Great Britain at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Great Britain, represented by the British Olympic Association (BOA), competed at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. 257 competitors, 213 men and 44 women, took part in 127 events in 18 sports. British athletes have competed in every Summer Olympic Games. Indeed, it is the only country to have won at least one gold medal at every Summer Olympic Games: in 1952, they achieved their only gold medal during the last event of the last day of competition in Helsinki. Along with 1904 and 1996, this is Great Britain's lowest gold medal count.

Gymnastics at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Gymnastics at the 1952 Summer Olympics was represented by 15 events: 7 for women and 8 for men. All events were held between July 19 and July 24 in the Messuhalli building in Helsinki. Men's events were held in Exhibition Hall I while women's events were contested in the smaller Exhibition Hall II.

Hungary at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Hungary competed at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. 189 competitors, 162 men and 27 women, took part in 107 events in 15 sports.

Italy at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Italy competed at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. 231 competitors, 208 men and 23 women, took part in 114 events in 19 sports.

Jamaica at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Jamaica competed at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.

Rowing at the 1952 Summer Olympics – Men's eight

The men's eight competition at the 1952 Summer Olympics took place at Meilahti, Finland.

Saar at the 1952 Summer Olympics

A National Olympic Committee (NOC) of the Saarland was founded in spring of 1950 in the Saar Protectorate which existed from 1947 to 1956 (German state of Saarland since), a region of Western Germany that was (again) occupied in 1945 by France. As a separate team, they only took part in the 1952 Summer Olympics before being allowed to rejoin the German team for the summer games of 1956. Thirty-six competitors, 31 men and five women, took part in 32 events in nine sports.

Sweden at the 1952 Summer Olympics

Sweden competed at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. 206 competitors, 183 men and 23 women, took part in 124 events in 17 sports.

Swimming at the 1952 Summer Olympics

At the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, a total number of eleven swimming events were contested, six for men and five for women. The events were held at the Swimming Stadium. There was a total of 319 participants from 48 countries competing.

United States at the 1952 Summer Olympics

The United States competed at the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. 286 competitors - 245 men and 41 women - took part in 133 events in 18 sports. It won 76 medals (40 gold), including 6 podium sweeps; the highest number of medal sweeps in a single Olympiad by one country since World War II and still a record (though achieved a few more times since).

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