Olympic Games 1952 Helsinki

15th Olympiad


Sports: 19

Events: 149

National Teams: 69

Participants: 4,932

Torch and Torch Relay

  Torch Relay 1952

In Greece the Flame was carried the whole way  by runners. Stages were 1 km and the average speed 6 minutes per km. There were 342 runners.

A member of the Organising Committee, Mr. Lauri Miettinen, arrived in Athens by air from Helsinki on June 20th, bringing with him seven silver torches and 200 fuel canisters. He was present at the kindling of the Olympic Falame in Olympia on the morning of June 25 th and at the evening estival in the marble Stadium in Athens the following day, making a speech in Greek on both occasions. Mr. Miettinen conveyed the Flame by air from Athens to Aalborg in Denmark, attendet by an escort of four Greek athletes.

The Flame was kindled in Olympia by the Greek maiden Rea Michalopoulov from the sun's rays with a burning-glass. From the torch thus kindled the Flame was transferred to an asbestos bowl and borne by brown-clad women gymnasts to the festival field. There, at a brief ceremony reverential in character, the speakers were the Prefect of the Province of Elis, the Mayor of Olympia and the Chairman of Greece's Olympic Committee. In accordance with ancient tradition, an olive-branch was proffered to Mr. Miettinen. The ceremony was broadcast in Greece and Finland.

The Torch Relay kept well to the time-table. In the dusk of evening the Flame arrived at the Athens Stadium. Searchlights were turned off as the runner bore it to the centre of the arena and kindled the Flame on the altar.


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General torch and torch relay information 1952
Description: Inscribed "XV OLYMPIA HELSINKI 1952", the Olympic Rings and laurel wreath.
Material The bowl is hallmarked silver and it has a birch wood handle.
Fuel: Unknown;
Torch measure: Lenght:  60 cm       Weight: 600 gr
Torches total: 22
Design by: Aukusti Tuhka
Manufacturer: Kultakeskus Oy, Hämeenlinaa
Date of the torch relay: 25. June - 19. July 1952
Duration: 25 days
Numbers of runners: 3,372
Distance total: 4.725 km
Name of the last runner: Paavo Nurmi

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 1 350 runners.

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 his Torch

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.


Torch Relay Plaque

This copper plaque, on which was embossed the Olympic Flame, measured 40 x 70 mm and was 3 mm thick. The number made was 3 750. Plaques were presented to participants in the Torch Relay as the relay progressed.

Olympic Torch Relay 1952 Olympia - Helsinki
In the space of time from 25.06.1952 - 19.07.1952
Country Date Distance Runners Torches
Greece 25.06. - 26.06.1952 km 342  
Air Journey 27.06.1952 km    
Denmark 28.06. - 30.06.1952 450 km 650  
Sweden 01.07. - 08.07.1952 km 700  
Finland 09.07. - 19.07.1952 km 1,350  
Total 4,725 km 3,372 22

Description of the route:

June 25th
June 26th
June 27th

June 28th
June 29th
June 30th
July  1st


Olympia                  -           Psathopyrgos
Psathopyrgos          -           Athens
Departure from Athens
Athens, Munich, Düsseldorf, Aalborg


Aalborg                  -           Skanderborg
Skanderborg         -           Odense
Odense                  -           Copenhagen
Departure by sea for Sweden  


July  1st
July  2nd
July 3rd
July 4th
July 5th
July 6th
July 7th
July 8th


Malmö                     -          Hälsingborg
Hälsingborg             -         Gothenburg
Gothenburg              -         Norrköping
Norrköping              -         Stockholm
Stockholm               -         Gefle
Gefle                       -          Kramfors
Kramfors                 -         Skellefteå
Skellefteå                -         Torino  


July   6th
July   7th
July   8th
July   9th
July 10th
July 11th
July 12th
July 13th
July 14th
July 15th
July 16th
July 17th
July 18th
July 19th


Departure from Pallastunturi
Kittilä                      -          Rovaniemi
Rovaniemi             -          Torino, Kemi
Kemi                      -           Oulu
Oulu                       -           Raahe
Raahe                    -          Kalajoki
Kalajoki                  -          Kokkola
Kokkola                 -           Kyyjärvi
Kyyjärvi                  -          Jyväskylä
Jyväskylä                -         Jämsä
Jämsä                     -         Tampere
Tampere                 -         Hämeenlinna
Hämeenlinna          -         Hyvinkää
Hyvinkää                 -         Helsinki, Stadium  


(Source document:  Official Report 1952, page 205 - 219)


Other Olympic Torches: