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The Olympics – As They Were 60 Years Ago

August 17, 2012

Remember the Olympics? They seemed like just yesterday.

Well, actually, the most recent edition wound up in London Aug. 12, 2012 – just about yesterday.

But here at Priceless Photo Preservation, we’re setting our Wayback Machine to 60 years ago: To Oslo, Norway, where the 1952 Winter Olympics were held.

A figure skater named Dick Button recorded the first triple jump to capture the gold medal. A Norwegian truck driver Hjalmar Andersen won three of the four speedskating events. And both Germany and Japan made their return to the Olympics after a 16-year absence because of World War II and its aftermath.

Here’s the way we’re used to seeing Olympics from six decades ago: Through a black and white photo of the opening ceremonies, courtesy of  Wikipedia.

A little on the dry side, huh?

Well, thanks to a Priceless Photo Preservation client and our own preservation efforts, we can give you a different look at these ceremonies. The client’s father-in-law was a member of the support staff for the U.S. Olympic team. Thus, he had ground floor access to Bislett Stadium.

And he had an 8mm movie camera – which he used to capture the highlights in full, glorious color. We have created a flicker-less HD transfer of the three-minute film, which we have posted on YouTube and embedded here.

A few things to note: The opening ceremonies were held Feb. 15, 1952 amid some somber news. Just a few days earlier, Kong George VI (the subject of The King’s Speech and the father of Queen Elizabeth II) had died. Thus we see several flags at half-mast or held low – and some participants wearing black armbands. There were a total of 694 athletes representing 30 countries, competing in just six sports and 22 events. The American athlete carrying the flag, whom we briefly see up close, is 1948 bobsledding Bronze medalist James Bickford. Finally, don’t look for the hammer and sickle in the field of flags: The Soviet Union would not send a team until 1956.

Most amusingly, organizers decided to hold the ceremonies in Oslo’s speed-skating oval – and didn’t bother covering the ice. Thus, the shuffling athletes (particularly the flagbearers) constantly look as if they are going to fall on their butts.

There are a few more 1952 Olympic films from the client’s collection we are in the process of converting – and we may post them on the blog if we find anything interesting.

In the meantime, feel free to contact us about any of your own preservation needs. We are an Ann Arbor-based partnership of professional archivists who can digitize home movies, slides, videos, photos, scrapbooks, albums and many more precious family holdings. Contact us at or 734-219-3916.

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