The Games of the XV Olympiad: Helsinki, 1952
Helsinki, Finland had originally been awarded the Olympic Games in 1940 after Tokyo bowed out. Twelve years later, the Helsinki Games finally opened. The Finns, who had so dominated long-distance running in recent decades, won few medals but many hearts. Appropriately, the double Olympic torch was lit by two of the greatest of the Finnish distance runners, Paavo Nurmi and Hannes Kolehmainen. The Scandinavian hospitality restored the Olympics to their former glory, as did the participation of a record sixty-nine nations. Especially notable was the entry of the Soviet Union, a country that had not competed in the Olympics since its creation following the Russian revolution of 1917.
Much speculation surrounded the participation of athletes from the previously isolated communist country, but the athletes impressed the world, winning twenty-two gold medals. While Cold War tensions threatened to turn the press coverage of the Olympics into that of a dual meet between the United States and the Soviet Union, in Helsinki all was peaceful. Soviet athletes invited Americans and others into their Olympic compound, which was separate from the rest of the Olympic village and near a military base controlled by the Soviets. Though apparently nervous in the presence of foreigners, the Soviets competed with sportsmanship and were welcomed into the Olympic family.
On the track, the star of the 1952 Games was Emil Zátopek. He had nearly pulled off an impressive double victory in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in