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Helsinki 1952 - Quick hits

Sweet revenge

Finnish legend Paavo Nurmi had the honor of running into the arena with the Olympic torch. Banned by the IOC on the eve of the Games in Los Angeles 20 years earlier (because he was considered a professional runner), Nurmi made a triumphant return to the stage on which he made his name as one of the all-time greats of long-distance running.


Finnish gymnast Heikki Savolainen recited the Olympic oath and won a bronze medal in the team event 24 years after his first medal, a bronze in the pommel horse in Amsterdam in 1928. He won nine medals, including two gold, throughout his Olympic career.


Humorous American minister Bob Richards, who won the pole vault, was quick to remark: "I am the only priest in the world who is using his own means to get to heaven."

Boxing controversy

The heavyweight boxing final was reduced to a farce. Sweden's Ingemar Johansson, who was in the process of taking a beating from American Edward Sanders, opted to run around the ring in order to avoid his opponent. He was disqualified for his antics and stripped of the silver medal. Johansson went on to become world champion in 1959 and was finally awarded the silver medal in 1982.


Germany was not invited to the London Games in 1948 because of World War II, but did return to the Helsinki Games. Although they officially participated as a unified nation, nearly all their athletes were from West Germany.


The father of Jean Boiteux, who to this date is France's only male gold-medal winner in swimming (in the 400-meter freestyle), was so overjoyed by his son's achievement that he threw himself fully dressed into the pool after the race to celebrate.

Peaceful attempt

During the opening ceremony, young German athlete Barbara Rotbraut-Pleyer tried to read a message of peace on the speaker's podium, but she was stopped by Finnish IOC member Eric von Frenckell.

Copyright 2008 Agence France-Presse.

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