No experience can compare to my first Olympics, the 1952 Helsinki Games. I had graduated from New Rochelle High School a month earlier and was hungry to see the world while following my favorite track and field athletes.       

My vivid memories of the events in Helsinki were aided by a journal I kept and by videos from the Olympic filmmaker Bud Greenspan. My friend Steve Goddard and I booked passage (12 days!) on a tramp steamer for $95. In Helsinki, Steve and I stayed with a local family that charged $2 each a night for a comfortable room, breakfast and any other meals we happened to show up for.       

At the opening ceremony, I found myself among the 70,000 spectators on a rainy, chilly day in July. I remember the parade of athletes, nation by nation, walking into the stadium, circling the track, and taking their places on the infield. This was followed by a 21-gun salute, and our breathless anticipation to see who would light the Olympic flame. When Paavo Nurmi, the Flying Finn, who dominated distance running in the 1920s, came striding into the stadium, holding the flame aloft, the crowd erupted in wild appreciation. The athletes on the infield crowded to the track’s edge to get a better look, with one exception: the Soviet Union’s contingent. Dressed in white suits with red ties and scarves, the Soviet athletes stood stiffly at attention. At the height of the cold war, they presented a stark image that served to highlight their differences with the rest of the world. 


Comments and Feedback
run Emil Zatopek won the 5,000, 10,000 and marathon at the 1952 Olympic Games. He was the first runner to run under 29 minutes for the 10k. He won 38 consecutive 10,000 meter races. George Hirsch wrote this article about Emil Zatopek and that Olympic Games for the New York Times recently. He wanted to share it with us. Thanks George. Really enjoyed reading this...
Bob Anderson 6/29/12 11:37 pm