The Soviet Union made its Olympic debut, erecting a village surrounded by armed guards and protected with barbed wire.
Sport had become a propaganda weapon in the Cold War but, as always, individuals rather than power blocs left the enduring memories.
Emil Zatopek trained relentlessly and raced remorselessly, his face contorted in apparent agony. It was his opponents, though, who suffered most as the Czech ground out victories in the 5,000, 10,000 and marathon.
Australia embarked on a decade of unsurpassed sporting success refreshingly distinct from the win-at-all-costs mentality of the eastern European bloc. It paraded double sprint champion Marjorie Jackson plus Shirley Strickland who set a world record in the 80 metres hurdles.
** Helsinki, Finland in 1952 became the smallest ever city to
host the Olympic Games. It had then a population of only 367, 000.
** In 1952, after a gap of 40 years, Russia, now under the
guise of the Soviet Union, made a comeback to the Olympic Games.
** Although all the teams marched together in the 1952
Games, the 'Village' was divided for the teams from the Soviet bloc and for the
rest of the others.
** Czech long distance runner Emil
Zatopek established a unique triple when he won the 5000m, 10,000m and the
marathon in the 1952 Games. His wife Dana also won the javelin gold within an
hour of his 5000m victory.
** Hungarian swimmer Eva Szekely
who won the 200m breaststroke in the 1952 Games was joined by her husband, Dezso
Gyarmati, four days later when he won a gold as a part of the water polo team.
** Australia's Marjorie Jackson, who set world records in
winning the 100m and 200m sprint in the 1952 Games lost her third gold medal in
the 4x100 relay when she dropped the baton. Incidentally she retrieved the baton
and finished in the fifth place.
** American Barbara Pearl
Jones, at 15 years 123 days became the youngest ever (male or female) to win a
track and field gold medal when her team won the 4x100 relay in the 1952 Games.
** When Luxembourg's Josy Barthel scored an upset win in
the 1500m in the 1952 Games, it caused the band some problems as they tried to
find the anthem for the country.
** FBI agent Horace
Ashenfelter in the 1952 Games gained America's first distance gold since 1908
when he set an inaugural official world record in the 3000m steeplechase. In the
second place was a Russian Vladimir Kazantzev. The Press had a field time when
they reported that the American was "followed home" by a Russian.
** In the 1952 highboard diving event, an American of
Korean origin Dr Sammy Lee became the first man to successfully defend a diving
title. Interestingly he went on to coach the next man to achieve this feat - Bob
Webster in 1960 and 1964.
** When Frenchman Jean Boiteux
won the 400m freestyle event in the 1952 Games his father jumped into the pool
fully clothed, to congratulate him.
** One of the first
women allowed to compete against the men in the equestrian dressage was Lis
Hartel of Denmark in the 1952 Games. He won a silver medal despite being
paralysed below the knees after an attack of polio, and she, had to be helped on
and off her horse.
** In the women's discus in the 1952
Games at Helsinki, Nina Romashkova won Soviet Union its first ever gold medal in
** Sweden's Lars Hall, a carpenter, became
the first nonmilitary winner of the modern pentatlon in the 1952 Games.
** It was a unique gold medal for the American Frank Havens
in the 10,000m Canadian singles in the canoeing event of the 1952 Games. Back in
1924, his father Bill Havens was chosen to represent the United States in the
coxed eights rowing, but declined in the order to stay home with his wife, who
was then expecting their first child - Frank!
Walt Davis at 2.04m (6ft 7 in) was perhaps the tallest to win a gold in the
track and field event in the Olympic Games when he won the high jump event in
** The Soviet Union on their first appearance in the
Olympics Games won 71 medals, which included 22 golds.
The 1952 Helsinki Games were so well organized that some observers suggested
that the Olympics be held permanently in Scandinavia.