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1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki


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The 1952 Summer Olympics, also known as Helsinki 1952 (Swedish: Helsingfors 1952) or officially the Games of the XV Olympiad (Finnish: XV olympiadin kisat; Swedish: Den XV olympiadens spel), was an international multi-sport competition that took place in Helsinki, Finland, from July 19 to August 3, 1952.

XV Olympiad

Helsinki was chosen to host the 1940 Summer Olympics, but those plans were canceled due to World War II after Japan announced in 1938 that the Second Sino-Japanese War would prevent it from hosting the Olympics in Tokyo. Eventually, the games were held in Tokyo in 1964. The city that has hosted the northernmost Summer Olympics is Helsinki. The last time two consecutive summer Olympic Games were held entirely in Europe was in 1952, with London hosting the 1948 Games. The 1952 Winter Olympics in Oslo, Norway, was followed by the 1952 Summer Olympics, the last of two consecutive Olympics to be held in Northern Europe.

In addition, until the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, they were the Olympic Games with the greatest number of world records broken. The 1952 Games saw the Olympic debuts of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Israel, Thailand, and Saarland. The United States took home the most medals overall and in gold.

Context and Setup for the Games

Selection of the host city

Inspired by the Swedish 1912 Olympics’ success, Finnish sports fans started to spark talk of holding their own Olympic Games. At the 1915 Töölön Pallokenttä opening, for instance, Erik von Frenckell publicly expressed his hopes for the Finnish Olympic Games.

As the 1920s saw more Olympic success, interest in holding one’s own games increased. Following the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp, Finnish sports officials started making plans to construct a stadium in Helsinki in 1920. In order to bring the stadium to Helsinki, the major sports organizations in Finland as well as the city itself established the Stadion Foundation in 1927. Finland’s representative on the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Ernst Edvard Krogius, declared the country’s desire to host the competition in that same year.

The start of the Olympic Stadium design project in 1930, sped up the process of getting ready for the 1936 Games. Nevertheless, Berlin prevailed in the competition’s first round in 1931 without Helsinki’s participation. Nevertheless, Helsinki promptly registered as a candidate for the 1940 Games. The 1936 Olympics were given to Tokyo, and when the Sino-Japanese War broke out two years later, Japan declared they were forfeiting the 1940 Games. Four days later, the IOC offered Helsinki the Games, and Helsinki accepted, despite having little time to prepare for the event.

The German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, precipitated the outbreak of World War II and sparked hostilities between Britain and France. The Olympic Games Organizing Committee maintained its optimism regarding the preparations for the Games in spite of the aggression. The Soviet Union’s declaration of war on November 30, 1939, however, put an end to the games’ preparation. Following the Winter War, hostilities throughout Europe, the suspension of preparations brought on by the conflict, and the dire state of the economy led the Organizing Committee to decide to cancel the Games on March 20, 1940.

The official cancellation of the Olympic Games in Finland took place at the Finnish Olympic Committee meeting on April 20, 1940. As this was going on, Germany was fighting in Norway and occupying Denmark as part of the growing Second World War. Actor Eino Kaipainen read the poem Silent Winners by Yrjö Jylhä [fi] at the opening of the Memorial Competitions for Fallen Athletes [fi] who died in the Winter War, which Finland held in place of the Olympic Games. Sulo Kolkka [fi], a sports journalist, took the initiative to hold the memorial competitions.

Originally granted the 1944 Games, which were canceled due to the war, London was re-awarded the 1948 Summer Olympics at the end of World War II. As candidates for the 1952 Games, Helsinki persisted in its efforts to register and organize the Games. Overriding bids from Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, and Philadelphia, Helsinki was selected as the host city at the IOC Congress held in Stockholm on June 21, 1947. Among Helsinki’s assets were the reasonably finished venues from the 1940 Olympics.

Committee of Organizing
The “XV Olympia Helsinki 1952” was founded as the organizing committee of the Games on September 8, 1947, following the announcement that Helsinki would host the Games. Its members included 26 different sports organizations, the Finnish Olympic Committee, the Finnish State, and the City of Helsinki. Erik von Frenckell, the mayor of Helsinki, was chosen to lead the committee. He was also the Finnish Football Association’s chair at the time. The Vice-Chairs that were elected were Armas-Eino Martola, Olavi Suvanto, and Akseli Kaskela.

Kaskela and Suvanto were chosen based on political criteria to represent the leftist Finnish Workers’ Sports Federation (TUL) and the bourgeois Finnish Sports Federation [fi]. Martola, on the other hand, secured the services of a former officer to oversee the coordination of the practical arrangements.

Additional members of the organizing committee included Eino Pekkala, Väinö Salovaara, Erik Åström, Urho Kekkonen, Ernst Krogius, William Lehtinen, and Aarne K. Leskinen [fi]. Lauri Miettinen [fi], Arno Tuurna [fi], and Yrjö Valkama were chosen to succeed Karikoski, Kekkonen, Krogius, and Lehtinen, who had resigned from the committee in 1948–1949. In the spring of 1952, Mauno Pekkala and Aaro Tynell joined as brand-new members, replacing Ente with Arvi E. Heiskanen [fi].

The other directors of the organization were Armas-Eino Martola (director of competition), Yrjö Valkama (director of sports), Olavi Suvanto (director of maintenance), Akseli Kaskela, Aarne K. Leskinen, and Niilo Koskinen [fi]. Erik von Frenckell served as the committee’s chairman. Moreover, the competition was organized by the heads of information and the central office, Kallio Kotkas [fi] and Eero Petäjäniemi [fi].

The state of politics
When the Olympics were held in Helsinki, there was tension in the international political arena. There were a lot of challenging topics on the agenda for the 1951 IOC meeting in Vienna. The Chinese Civil War, which was won by the Chinese Communist Party and resulted in the formation of the People’s Republic of China, with the Republic of China government being exiled to Taiwan, and the situation between Israel and the Arab countries were all part of the ongoing Cold War. Germany was divided as well.

Japan was one of the losing nations in the Second World War and was not invited to the Olympics in London four years prior. All of these nations—including Saarland—had already taken part in the Helsinki Games, even though the Israeli Olympic Committee and the German Olympic Committee, which had been disbanded during World War II, had not yet been officially recognized.

Both the US and the USSR’s participation in the Games was impacted by the Cold War. The United States did not decide to compete in the Games until it had received an evaluation of Finland’s political climate from its embassy in Helsinki. The Soviet Union received its IOC membership in May 1951, and that same year, since its athletes were in medal condition, the nation accepted its invitation to compete in December of that same year. The Helsinki Games had propaganda value even though the Soviet leadership had previously viewed them as a bourgeois event.

In just one year, the Soviet Union spent billions of rubles on athlete coaching.[16] The Soviet Union intended to transport its athletes between Leningrad and Helsinki on a daily basis. A different choice available to Soviet athletes was to remain in the Soviet garrison at Porkkalanniemi. But Finland mandated that all athletes remain in the race village. Espoo, Otaniemi saw the establishment of a second race village as a compromise measure for the athletes from the Eastern Bloc.

The worsening global circumstances also raised the possibility of canceling the 1952 Games. The organizing committee was also concerned about the Korean War, which had broken out in 1950. The organizing committee chose to insure against war by Lloyd’s of London at Von Frenckell’s suggestion.

Construction projects

Olympic Stadium Tower
A considerable amount of expansion and renovation work was required, including the building of extra stands at the Olympic and Swimming Stadium. However, the majority of the competition venues were finished before the 1940s in anticipation of successful bid attempts.[19] Kisakylä (Olympic Village), a residential area, was constructed to accommodate rivals south of Koskelantie in Käpylä. When the area was constructed, it was already home to Helsinki residents and was constructed near the 1940 Olympics.20] Completed for visitor use at Kumpula Outdoor Swimming Pool, the competition area was located just below the opening. Meilahti’s Nursing College granted female athletes their own race village last year. The athletes from the Eastern Bloc, led by the Soviet Union, lodged at Teekkarikylä in Otaniemi.The Santahamina Army School (later known as the Cadet School, and currently the National Defence University) was the residence of the Finnish team.

A new airport in Seutula (now known as Helsinki-Vantaan lentoasema), the Olympic Pier South Harbor, and tens of kilometers of new road construction were all done by the City of Helsinki in preparation for the Olympics. At the junction of Mikonkatu and Aleksanterinkatu in October 1951, the city’s first traffic lights were installed.[25] Among the hotels that satisfied the needs of the visitors were the Palace Hotel and the Vaakuna Hotel [fi]. But because the city has comparatively few hotels, Among other places, tent villages were constructed for tourists in Lauttasaari and Seurasaari. However, the accommodations turned out to be much overbuilt; the Lauttasaari tent village, which could accommodate 6,000 people, only had an 8% occupancy rate at its peak. To amuse guests, Finland’s first mini golf courses were finished with the help of the Olympia 1952 committee.

In 1950, the International Olympic Committee announced that the organizers would be free to choose their own Olympic anthem. Finland held a contest for anthems. Niilo Partanen, an unidentified teacher candidate, unexpectedly emerged victorious in a poetry competition held in the spring of 1951. The poets Toivo Lyy [fi] and Heikki Asunta were ranked second and third respectively. It was permitted to use these winning poems in the composition contest. It was also unexpected how the 51 compositions were chosen by the jury, which Jouko Tolonen [fi] chaired. On March 17, 1952, the winner was revealed to be Jaakko Linjama [fi], an unidentified teacher who had borrowed Lyy’s lyrics for his Olympic Hymn.

The other competitors’ nicknames remained hidden. This created a stir, and some, including Arijoutsi [fi], questioned whether the prestige of well-known composers would be gained by the unknown’s triumph. Known individuals competed in the competition. Among others, the voters had recognized the compositional styles of Aarre Merikanto and Uuno Klami. Jean Sibelius, the only Finnish composer who did not participate in the anthem, was the only one to congratulate Linjamaa.

Relay of the torch

Banner for the Olympic torch
The Olympic flame was flown from Olympia to Athens via land, and then it traveled to Aalborg, Denmark, via an SAS aircraft using a miner’s lamp that was donated by the Saar Olympic Committee. Sakari Tohka [fi], an artist, created the glass cover that encircles the light.29] Aukusti Tuhka [fi], an artist, created the design of the Olympic torch.

Torchlight travels by running, cycling, riding, rowing, and paddling from Denmark to Copenhagen, from where it is transported by ferry to Malmö in Sweden. Seven hundred messengers made the torch’s journey across Sweden to Haparanda, from where it continued on to Tornio on the Finnish side. Ville Pörhölä accepted the torch on the Finnish-Swedish border bridge and carried it to the Tornio sports ground [fi].[29] On July 6, 1952, the “midnight sun fire” was started at Pallastunturi by the Olympic torch from Tornio, Greece. In actuality, liquefied petroleum gas was used to start the Pallastunturi fire since it was impossible to use the sun as a lighter due to the cloudy July night.[31] The torch left Tornio and made its way to Helsinki via Finland. It was carried by over 1,200 persons.

The original plan was to ship fire to Helsinki through the Soviet Union, but diplomacy failed to resolve the issue in time.[29] From June 25 to July 19, 1952, a total of 7,870 kilometers were traveled during the trip.[33] For the Olympic Stadium, the real Olympic flame was lit.

Relay of Olympic torch:

Greece: Olympia – Corinth – Athens
Denmark: Aalborg – Århus – Vejle – Odense – Sorø – Copenhagen
Sweden: Malmö – Helsingborg – Laholm – Göteborg – Jönköping – Norrköping – Örebro – Stockholm – Uppsala – Falun – Gävle – Hudiksvall – Sundsvall – Umeå – Skellefteå – Boden – Haparanda Finland: (midnight sun fire): Pallastunturi – Rovaniemi – Tornio – Oulu – Kokkola – Jyväskylä – Tampere – Helsinki

Ceremonial opening

Olympic Stadium entrance for Paavo Nurmi

The Olympic Games’ official competition drink’s selling point
The 19th of July marked the start of the Helsinki Olympics. Seventy-four,35 people were packed into the Olympic Stadium, which had no roof and was situated atop the main auditorium despite the cold, rainy weather.39] A record 5,469 people from 67 countries participated in the inaugural march. (40) Erik von Frenckell, the chairman of the organizing committee, spoke in Finnish, Swedish, French, and English as the nations gathered on the central lawn following the march.

The shortest opening speech in Olympic history was delivered by President of the Republic J. K. Paasikivi, who made an error in referring to the event as the “Fifteenth Olympic Games” instead of the “XV Olympic Games” and the “12th World Olympics” because the races in 1916, 1940, and 1944 had been canceled. The Olympic flag was raised and Aarre Merikanto’s Olympic fanfare [fi] was played after the speech.

Archbishop Ilmari Salomies was scheduled to offer a prayer after the Olympic flame was lit, but Barbara Rotbraut-Pleyer, a German known as the “White Angel of the Games,” leaped from the auditorium onto the track and made her way directly to the speaker’s seat. After giving Pleyer barely enough time to speak into the microphone, organizers swiftly took Pleyer out. Pleyer intended to deliver a message of peace. On behalf of the athletes, gymnast Heikki Savolainen, who was competing in his fifth consecutive Olympic games, took the oath.


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