Who Governs Norwegian Sport?

Por: Berit Skirstad.

Athens 2004: Pre-olympic Congress

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Sport represents the largest voluntary organization in Norway. The members of the Norwegian Olympic Committee and Confederation of Sports (NOC) equal approximately 40 % of the Norwegian population when one does not correct for double membership. The highest decision-making body in sport is the general assembly of sports organized every 4th year. Between the general assemblies of sport the executive board of NOC governs, and they shall see to the implementation of the decisions taken at the general assembly. An analysis of what happens at the general assembly can give us insight in who governs, who controls and who profits from the democratic system which the general assembly of sport represents. The document "Sports Politics 2003-2007" which points out the course of the NOC for the next 4 years, has been chosen to illustrate the case.


The document has been analysed from it first was sent on rehearsal to the parties who take part at the general assembly of sports. The comments (60) that were received from the parties as well as the final document have been analysed. The General Assembly itself in May 2003 was observed by four persons. The total members with voting rights were 161.


The document "Sport Politics" treats 15 different themes, of which 11 were discussed in the general assembly. In all 44 different proposals were voted upon, of which 26 were approved, 10 sent on to the next executive board for further treatment and 7 were not passed. About half the proposals came from the special sport federations and the other half from the sport associations in the regions. Twice as many male as female representatives were responsible for the interventions.
Discussion / Conclusions
NOC claims to get its legitimating power from the sport clubs when it wants to demonstrate political power and democracy. Most people think democracy in sport means that the members in sport decide and that bureaucrats implement the decisions. This analysis shows that is a misleading conception. Specializing and professionalizing are developing trends in the whole voluntary sector [1] as in sport. Most of the tasks drawn up in the Sport Politics document are planned for the sport clubs, but they are not given the chance or being allowed to speak up, and they are not represented at the general assembly of sports. Can we then speak about democracy in sport?


[1]. Selle & Øymyr 1995, Frivillig organisering og demokrati: det frivillige organisasjonssamfunnet endrar seg 1940-1990, Samlaget, Oslo



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