Legitimation processes of sport organizations


Place: Aud A, NIH

Formal title

Legitimation processes of sport organizations -The Case of Norwegian Youth Sport Policy and the 2016 Lillehammer Winter Youth Olympic Games


The Norwegian Olympic Committee and Confederation of Sport’s (NIF) main argument for hosting the 2016 Lillehammer Youth Olympic Games (hereafter referred to as Lillehammer 2016) was the alleged positive demonstration effect, the promise that the event would increase the active engagement of youth in Norwegian organized sports in terms of participation, young leadership, and young coaches, and play an important role in NIF’s youth sport policy.

The aim of this research is to analyze how different actors shape and influence Norwegian youth sport policy in connection to Lillehammer 2016 as legitimation process of NIF. This aim was met through the examination of four research questions, which comprise the entire policy process, from formulation (Article 1) via implementation (Article 2) and perception of the policy target group (Article 3) to the policy outcome (Article 4).


The study is built on four research questions comprising the whole policy process, from policy formulation (Article 1) via implementation (Article 2) and the target group’s perception of the policy (Aricle 3) to the outcome of the policy (Article 4).

The study is based on qualitative inquiry comprising 33 interviews with actors central to policy process in connection with Lillehammer 2016. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with representatives of the bid committee (n=8) who were involved in the policy formulation, as well as with representatives of NIF (n=4), the organizing committee (n=4) and the County of Oppland (n=1) who were involved in the implementation of the policy. As well, participants (n=16) of a young leaders program, which was organized in connection with Lillehammer 2016, were interviewed. The study is complemented by document analysis and observations which were conducted before, during, and after the event.


A main finding is that a sport event is often convenient for the legitimation of sport politicians’ needs, while actually not fitting into the policy already ongoing. The key conclusion from this dissertation is that the legitimation process of NIF could be found in all stages of the policy process:

In the policy formulation and legitimation stage, the language used for the Lillehammer 2016 bid in documents, meetings, and by the bid committee was based on taken-for-granted understandings of youth sport policy, and it was worked out purposefully to provide assurance of the alleged necessity of Lillehammer 2016 as a solution to the existing—and long-lasting—challenges of Norwegian youth sport. In that respect, youth sport policy has become a self-imposed norm and a convenient symbolic strategy and assumed solution to NIF’s dropout problem. Lillehammer 2016 was not a solution to the dropout problem—rather the opposite—but the dropout problem was a convenient argument to justify the Lillehammer 2016 bid.

The policy implementation was characterized by conflicts of interests among the implementing organizations, institutional pressure from NIF on the implementing agents as well as a lack of implementation strategy. This created tension between the policymaker within NIF, the implementing agents as well as the policy target group, and challenged successful implementation. NIF can document that they created projects involving young people, however, none of the projects were created by strategically using Lillehammer 2016 to develop youth sport; they are more a series of projects initiated by the few implementing agents. NIF will get the credit for this even though only the young leaders part of the youth sport policy goals was followed up. 

For NIF, an initiated young leaders program was an excellent opportunity to reach some of the promised goals of Lillehammer 2016, e. g. including young volunteers in the event and at the same time reaching the milestones that were written for national youth sport policy regarding the involvement of young leaders. I discuss if it was more important for NIF to convince and satisfy the public about their ‘successful outcome’ of youth sport policy, i. e. an actual increase of young people engaged in organized sport. Based on the empirical findings, this study provides a theoretical model for understanding the relation between sport policy process and legitimation processes of sport organizations.


Strittmatter, A.-M. (2016). Defining a problem to fit the solution: A neo-institutional explanation for legitimizing the bid for the 2016 Lillehammer winter Youth Olympic Games. International Journal of Sport Policy and Politics8(3), 421-437.

Strittmatter, A.-M. & Skille, E. Å. (2016). Boosting youth sport? Implementation of Norwegian youth sport policy through the 2016 Lillehammer Winter Youth Olympic Games. Sport in Society20(1), 144–160.

Strittmatter, A.-M., Hanstad, D. V. & Skirstad, B. (Under review). Mismatch of expectations between target group and implementing agents in youth sport policy.

Strittmatter, A.-M. (Under review). Increasing youth sport engagement through the Youth Olympic Games: Leveraging strategies and tactics. International Journal of Sport Management and Marketing.

Hanstad, D. V., Kristiansen, E., Sand, T. S., Skirstad, B., & Strittmatter, A.-M. (2016). Volunteering at 2016 Lillehammer winter Youth Olympic Games. Oslo: Akilles.

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