History of the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki

Adding a portrait of Stalin to the Soviet Olympic village during the 1952 Olympic Games.
A portrait of Stalin is attached to one of the buildings at the Soviet athletes' quarters at Otaniemi camp, Helsinki, four days before the start of the 1952 Olympic Games, 15th July 1952. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The 1952 Olympic Games were largely a reflection of the Cold War. The Soviet Union, joining the Olympics for the first time, definitely made their presence known. Not only dominating women's gymnastics, the Soviets held sway over all of the Eastern bloc countries. Held between July 19 and August 3, 1952, the 1952 Olympics (the XV Olympiad) brought the world together, even if for just a short time.

Official Who Opened the Games: President Juho Paasikivi
Person Who Lit the Olympic Flame: Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen
Number of Athletes:  4,955 (519 women, 4,436 men)
Number of Countries: 69
Number of Events: 149

Three New Countries

Israel, the People's Republic of China, and the Soviet Union join the Olympics for the first time.

Two Olympic Villages

The Soviets, instead of joining the other athletes in the Olympic Village, set up their own Olympic Village for Eastern bloc countries in Otaniemi, near the Soviet naval base at Porkkala. Soviet athletes were chaperoned by Soviet officials everywhere they went in an effort to prevent communication with athletes from the West.

The competition of East versus West dominated the atmosphere. Bob Mathias (United States), winner for the second time of the decathlon, described the atmosphere at the Games: "There were many more pressures on American athletes because of the Russians.

. . . They were in a sense the real enemy. You just loved to beat 'em. You just had to beat 'em. . . . This feeling was strong down through the entire team."*


* Bob Mathias as quoted in Allen Guttmann, The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992) 97.

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Rosenberg, Jennifer. "History of the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki." ThoughtCo, Dec. 1, 2015, thoughtco.com/1952-olympics-in-helsinki-1779603. Rosenberg, Jennifer. (2015, December 1). History of the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/1952-olympics-in-helsinki-1779603 Rosenberg, Jennifer. "History of the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/1952-olympics-in-helsinki-1779603 (accessed December 13, 2017).