The running revolutionary

Czech athlete Emil Zátopek's extraordinary feats on the running track made him a global superstar. But, as Richard Askwith reveals, Zátopek's political activism set him at loggerheads with his nation's communist authorities

Emil Zátopek. (Photo by Universal/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

This article was first published in the August 2016 issue of BBC History Magazine 

The crowds at Helsinki’s new airport were overwhelming. On 10 July 1952 – nine days before the opening of the XV Olympic Games – some 10,000 people had turned out to welcome the world’s most famous athlete to Finland. But there was a problem: when the Czechoslovak team disembarked their plane, Captain Emil Zátopek was not among them.

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