504.2 The paradoxical autonomy of Nordic elite sport system

Friday, August 3, 2012: 11:05 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Svein S. ANDERSEN , Organization and management, Norwegian School of Management, Oslo, Norway
The aim of this paper is to compare elite sport systems in the four Nordic countries; Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Central questions are: Is there a Nordic model of elite sport? And how do national models of elite sport relate to international convergence of national elite sport systems? Studies of politics, welfare states and social issues often emphasize the commonalities constituting a Nordic model. The literature on international elite sport systems emphasizes the convergence of national systems, reflecting intense international competitive pressures. In the domain of elite sport there are commonalities across Nordic countries, reflecting the dominance of a broad voluntary mass sports movement, intertwined with social democracy and welfare states. Nordic systems integrate key component of international elite sport, but have developed quite differently over the last 30 years. However, these differences run counter to characteristics of the national social and political contexts. In Denmark, where the state has been most reluctant to intervene in economy and society, we find a state institution for elite sport supported by special legislation. In the other countries the state has retained an arms’ length distance.  Finland has perhaps the strongest tradition for centralization of authority, but over the last decades the elite sport system has become increasingly fragmented. In contrast, Norway, with the strongest tradition for decentralization and egalitarianism, has an elite sport with the strongest elements of central coordination. Sweden, known for its ability to adapt to international challenges has integrated changes in elite sport within a stable, but conflict ridden, overall system. In conclusion, the study points to a paradoxical autonomy of the Nordic elite sport systems, where entrepreneurial initiatives and the role of various contextual factors differ widely.