Juho Kusti Paasikivi, the seventh president of Finland, known to the world for shaping Finland’s post-war doctrine of neutrality, was a multilingual diplomat with a university degree in Russian language and literature.
A Finnish-language version of this article is available here.
Thus, on the eve of the 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics, it was only appropriate for the cultured statesman to hold a speech in a world language.
English, however, was not Paasikivi’s strong suit, as French had long been the predominant language of diplomacy. Still, the president wanted to extend his greetings to foreign guests arriving in Helsinki.
It gives me great pleasure to address a message of greeting to the young people of the world as they prepare for the fifteenth Olympic Games which are, once again, to be celebrated in a spirit worthy of the ideals of Baron de Coubertin.
This happy cooperation between young people of all countries will serve the great call of concord and peace among the nations of the world.
I am particularly pleased to be sending you this advance greeting because, as a young man, I was myself an enthusiastic gymnast and athlete. And I have retained throughout my life a deep interest in athletics and sports of all kinds.
I am convinced that the Finnish people, loving sport as they do, will spare no effort to make the 1952 Olympic Games a complete success.
Paasikivi (1870–1956) had already forged a long and prestigious political career before his presidency (1946–56), having served as chairman of the Senate and twice as prime minister. He was also Chief General Manager of the Kansallis-Osake-Pankki (KOP) bank. During Finnish autonomy, Paasikivi represented the nationalist Fennoman party and later, after independency, the National Coalition Party. Known for his irritable nature, the politician was a troublesome colleague.