On May 7, 1951, the International Olympic Committee recognized the newly formed Soviet Olympic Committee in the course of its session in Vienna, Austria, and invited the Soviet Union to participate in the upcoming 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, Finland.
The Soviet Olympic Committee was founded on April 21, 1951, bringing together 96 representatives from the all-Union sport associations, spokespersons of the Soviet Union based in the world sport agencies, as well as leading coaches, scientists, teachers, and public organizations.
The Committee was responsible for promoting the Olympic sports in the Soviet Union, sponsoring all of the preliminary activities, assembling the Olympic team, and handling all the relevant paperwork. Aside from the its compulsory duties, the Olympic Committee engaged in international relations, and reinforced the cooperation for peace and friendship of youth worldwide.
The opening of the Olympic Committee in the Soviet Union was followed by multiple widespread repercussions. The international sporting press recognized the foundation of the Soviet Olympic Committee as a progressive step. Soviet participation also boosted the international interest to the upcoming Olympics.
After the Soviet Union and a number of other socialist countries were accepted for participation, it gave rise to fierce debates about the possibility of peaceful cooperation of the contending political regimes in this sporting event, and whether the International Olympic Committee would have enough power to act as a mediator, accommodating teams from socialist, capitalist, and developing countries.
These fears had grounds, as since the 1950s, the International Olympic Committee had been busy managing conflicts and disputes of a political character with China, Korea, and the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).
The 1952 Games were the first ones in history to unite the teams of the two antagonistic political systems. This confrontation lasted for 40 years, and included all of the leading Western and Eastern countries. The major competition unfolded between the USSR and the United States: sports had become another weapon in the Cold War. The chase after the medals was not only driven by the desire to score points, but had turned into a matter of the country’s political prestige. The athletes of both countries had to put up with a lot of pressure from the authorities. The fierce competition between the two superpowers led to a surge in the number of world records set at the Helsinki Olympics. In total, the Helsinki Games saw 66 records established, and 18 world records.
On June 10, 1952, before the American team was shipped off to Helsinki, the 'New York Times' came out with an appeal for the American Olympic team, encouraging them to teach the Soviets a lesson. It said that beating all of the 71 participating teams was desirable, however, it was the Soviet Union that had to be totally defeated.
The first appearance of the Soviet Olympic team did make an impression. In the track-and-field competition, the Soviets made it to second place in the overall standings, which was a real feat of strength, considering the American advantage in that area. For their part, the Soviet women placed first in track. The most sensational was the gymnastics: both the Soviet men and women repeatedly topped the pedestal. Regardless of the pressure and prejudice of the judges, the entire gymnastics team showed wonders in every competition. Gymnast Viktor Chukarin became the absolute Helsinki Olympics champion with his 4 gold and 2 silver medals.
In the unofficial team standings, the USSR and the United States scored an equal number of points – 494. The American team, however, received 40 gold medals, while the Soviet Union only won 22. The US had 19 silver and 17 bronze medals, while the USSR brought home 30 silvers and 19 bronzes.