1952 Helsinki Olympic Games

The Helsinki games were overshadowed by politics.
Russia participated for the first time since 1912 and during her 40-year absence,
two revolutions and two world wars had taken place.
It was ironic that the Soviets chose to make their
comeback in Finland — a country with which they were very antagonistic towards.
The “Olympic cold war” really began here with the Soviet team
refusing accommodation along side “Capitalist Nations”
in the Olympic village at Kapyla. The Russians planned to fly their
athletes in from Leningrad as they were required.
As it turned out, a separate Olympic
village (in students quarters) was set up in Helsinki for the
Communist bloc countries –
Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, the Soviet Union,
and Yugoslavia.

The Soviets surprised
the United States with their medal tally.
The U.S. only just mannaged
to hold off the USSR’s assault on first place in the overall standings.
Team officials of each side considered every win by their
athletes as proof of
the superiority of their political system.
Even Korea was drawn into this conflict. She participated in 1948 as a
“united” team from both North & South.
However , in 1952, South Korea made its Olympic debut as a country in its
own right.

For the Finns, the one of high points of the games came
at the opening ceremony, when Paavo Nurmi,(who had won 9 Olympics golds)
now 56 years old and balding, ran into the stadium
with the Olympic torch.

He handed it to another Finn,
Hannes Kolehmainen (the winner of
three gold medals in 1912), who lit the flame to start the Games.

In these Olympics, the Finns however failed to win a gold medal, even in the javelin,
their other great love. (the Finns had won 5 Olympic javelin titles since the 1st World War)

With the addition of several Communist countries and the
return of Japan and Germany (actually represented only
by West Germany, as East Germany refused to attend),
the number of countries competing in 1952
rose from 59 to 69 and the number of athletes increased
from 4,099 to 4,925.

More than 100 Olympic records were broken at Helsinki, and
there were many outstanding performances, but by any standard, Emil
of Czechoslovakia was the champion. He won the 5,000m
the 10,000m ,and the marathon. (His wife, Dana Zátopková,
won the javelin gold medal
on the same day he won the 5,000m.)

The men’s 100m final featured an upset winner
in a photo finish. Herb McKenley of Jamaica, had broken the tape
with his chest ,but after a
long study of the photograph,the judges decided that Lindy
right shoulder
crossed the line before McKenley’s chest hit the tape.
Remigino was awarded the gold medal.

In the 1500m run a virtual unknown, Josef Barthel of Luxembourg,
won over a field including
Roger Bannister, who was to become the first man to break the
4-minute barrier 2 years later. Barthel ran 3.3 seconds faster
than he had ever run
before. So unexpected was his victory that the medal ceremony
had to be delayed while officials searched for the music to
Luxembourg’s national anthem.

Harrison Dillard of the US won the 110m hurdles and also
won his fourth gold with the US 400m relay win.
Mal Whitfield won the 800m for the second time and Bob Mathias
shattered the world record when he won his second Olympic decathlon by
more than 900 points – the largest margin in Olympic history.

In women’s athletics, Marjorie Jackson of Australia won the
100m and 200m and her teammate, Shirley Strickland,
won the 80m hurdles.

The United States won 4 of the 6 men’s
swimming events.Women’s swimming was dominated by Hungary who won
four of the five
U.S. divers captured all 4 gold medals with
Pat McCormick becoming the second woman to win both the platform
and the springboard events.