Paavo Nurmi: Celebrating a century of legacy – great impact made in Turku

Few athletes have achieved what Paavo Nurmi did in the 1924 Summer Olympics: winning five gold medals in just six days. This remarkable achievement has left a lasting legacy that is still celebrated today.

To honor Paavo Nurmi’s exceptional achievements, Nurmi’s sports club Turun Urheiluliitto initiated the Paavo Nurmi Games on his 60th birthday in 1957. Today, in 2024, the event has confirmed its place as a well-known athletic event. The event is part of the World Athletics Continental Tour GOLD.

“In 1957, the Turun Urheiluliitto sports club representatives went to ask Paavo Nurmi himself if there could be an athletics event that carries his name. The answer was ‘yes, you can organise an event as long as you make it great’. We think we have succeeded in making it great – that’s one reason we are still here working hard,” says Jari Salonen, the CEO of Paavo Nurmi Games.

Also, the media recognises the value of the event.

“The Paavo Nurmi Games yearly media hits have been about ten times higher than any other events happening in Turku – and we have many well-known events. The earned media time has been amusing! Which of course is excellent news,” Salonen states.

The Paavo Nurmi Games are broadcast to over 200 countries, reaching over one million people in Finland alone. In 2023, the event attracted a full-stadium record of 13,640 spectators.

A legacy of community and sports promotion

Events are not made alone; they need strong cooperation and engaged people. In 2012, Paavo Nurmi Ltd. was founded to be able to organise a world-class event.

The organisation includes three local sports clubs with about 10,000 members, the Finnish Athletics Federation (SUL), and the Paavo Nurmi family. The Paavo Nurmi organisation thrives on the dedication of over 500 volunteers. The commitment of both the organisation and the volunteers is evident in the success and growth of the event in the past decades.

“In Finland, the purpose of sports as a promoter and creator of community is exceptionally big. The Paavo Nurmi Games is a concrete example that has earned its spot as a well-known event in Finland and internationally. We believe that the importance of sports will only grow in the future,” says Salonen.

Cultural and heritage contributions – 100 years make a difference

This year, Turku celebrates Nurmi’s legacy with various activities, including displays of copies of his Olympic medals around the City of Turku and a photographic exhibition at the Turku marketplace.

The enthusiasm surrounding the Paavo Nurmi Games extends beyond the sporting event with various side events promoting equal sports and leisure opportunities in Southwest Finland. These include, for instance, a marathon, school tour, coaching seminar, and golf game. Together all the events are part of the Paavo Nurmi Festival.

“Over the years, a whole concept has grown around Paavo Nurmi in Turku, the Paavo Nurmi Festival. Now 2024 makes an exception with extra festivities. We are collaborating with the local Music Festival, hosting concerts at Paavo Nurmi’s old home museum. In April 2024, the book The Unknown Paavo Nurmi, originally Tuntematon Paavo Nurmi, was also published, a great new addition to the cultural heritage and Nurmi publications,” Salonen celebrates.

The Jubilee year ends on Christmas with the Paavo Nurmi Christmas charity concert at the Turku Cathedral, which raises funds for disadvantaged families to support their hobbies.

Paris and the 2024 Summer Olympics – “Medals return to Paris”

The celebration of Paavo Nurmi’s legacy isn’t confined to Turku. His original five gold Olympic medals have been loaned to the Monnaie de Paris Museum, in France. This act serves as a cultural bridge, connecting the past achievements of Nurmi in Paris with the present.

“I got the honour to deliver the Olympic medals myself to the Museum. The biggest thank you belongs to the Paavo Nurmi family which borrows the medals until the end of the Olympics and Paralympics”, Salonen says thankfully.

“As a cultural action, we have translated the paavonurmi.fi webpage into nine different languages. The biggest national newspapers have made extended articles about the legendary Finnish runner, and several international papers have also written about him and his achievements now that his ‘medals return to Paris’, where it all began. This gives even more dignity to the history of Paavo Nurmi,” says Salonen.

Cooperation between Turku, World Athletics, and France has been strong. The City of Turku delegation will travel to the Olympic City to hold a joint reception with the Embassy for the sports leaders and those still alive Olympic heroes of history. Mutually a delegation from France will also attend the Paavo Nurmi Games on June 18th.

Extending beyond athletics

The Paavo Nurmi Games are not just about sports. They represent a significant cultural and heritage effort that continues to grow and inspire future generations.


Pictures: 1 & 2 Paavo Nurmi Games, 3 PNG/Anssi Mäkinen (in the picture Samuel Auvinen)

Back to listing