|In every Finnish municipality and rural commune through which the route
lay, a local Torch Relay organisation was set up of local government authorities
and members of local sports organisations. This body selected the runners,
marked out stages and carried out all practical arrangements in their locality.
Relay stages were about one kilometre and the average speed, with halts,
5-6 minutes per km. The Midnight Sun Flame was carried from Pallastunturi
to Tornio by 330 runners, and between Tornio and Helsinki there were 1
Accompanying the Flame from Pallastunturi to Helsinki in a service car
in the capacity of Technical Manager of the Torch Relay was the secretary
of the Torch Relay Committee. In addition to the service car the convoy
consisted throughout of a truck, a farmer's car and two private cars, one
for the representatives of the Organising Committee, the other empty in
reserve for any special duties that might arise. The service car moved
ahead of the Flame to the change-over sites to deliver a fresh torch. The
truck carried the receptacle in which the Flame burned during the night
at the stop-overs.
The Organising Committee's representative, Vice-Chairman Akseli Kaskela,
gave the starting order for the Midnight Sun Torch Relay on Pallastunturi
fell and also received the torch on the Tornio athletic field, stressing
in his speech the symbolical significance to the host-country of the merging
into one of the Olympic Flame and the Flame from the north.
The Flame was kindled on Taivaskero, a summit on the fell Pallastunturi,
by Mr. Jarl Sundqvist. The first torch-bearer was Pekka Niemi, former World
Champion in the 50-km ski event. Also in the sparsely-populated Lapland
wilds the relay aroused the keenest interest. The runners moved, no matter
how late the hour, at the head of an escort of scores of cyclists and a
long string of cars carrying devotees to the Torch Ceremony in Rovaniemi.
During the ceremony in Rovaniemi the Flame burned in front of the War Memorial
Graves. Major-General Yrjö Valkama was in Haparanda on the Swedish
side of the frontier to welcome the Olympic Torch Relay on behalf of the
Organising Committee. Here the Torch was officially handed over to the
Finns. Colonel Wiklund of Sweden gave it on the frontier bridge between
Haparanda and Tornio to Ville Pörhölä, Olympic victor in
the shot event. At a ceremony in Tornio the Olympic Flame and the Midnight
Sun Flame were then merged, the two torch-bearers, after making a triumphant
round of the running track, arriving at the rostrum simultaneously and
both at the same moment kindling the bowl on the rostrum. The Swedish guard
of honour which had escorted the Flame through Sweden came on across the
frontier to the Tornio athletic field for a final leave-taking. In a speech
at this ceremony Major-General Valkama thanked the Swedish relay runners,
Sweden's sporting youth and the entire Swedish nation for the great enthusiasm
shown in a common cause. The Governor of Lapland, Uuno Hannula, voiced
the sentiments of his province.
Paavo Nurmi kindles the Olympic Flame in the Bowl in the Stadium with
In Hämeenlinna, where the modern pentathlon was to be held, the
torch kindled an Olympic Flame in the Town Hall, from where it was ceremoniously
transferred to the pentathlon venue for the duration of the event.
The last stopping-place before the Olympic Stadium was the Käpylä
Olympic Village. There, with young women gymnasts forming a guard of honour,
it burned for an hour and a half. The relay through the streets of Helsinki
went off as scheduled. A police car preceding the runner was in wireless
communication with the Stadium to enable the rate of progress to be regulated.
Exactly to the minute the last runner, Paavo Nurmi, arrived through the
Stadium gate at the arena. Four Helsinki footballers had the honour of
carrying the torch to the top of the Stadium tower, where the Bowl was
kindled by Hannes Kolehmainen. In Finland the Torch Relay set in motion
close on a million people, a fourth of the total population. The enthusiasm
of the crowds along the route was tremendous. People came to the ceremonies
held at the stopping places from a hundred or more miles away. The ceremony
on the athletic field in Kyyjärvi, a rural commune with 2 800 inhabitants,
drew an attendance of 7 000.
On its route from Hellas to Helsinki the Olympic Flame was an impressive
and beautiful reminder to many millions of people of the Games at which
the youth of the whole world would assemble across all frontiers and dividing
lines to compete under the banners of friendship and peace.