Norwegian Human Rights Organisations and Olympic Games

by Anders Hasselgård & Andreas Selliaas

Vol. 5 2014, pages 1–24
Published January 28, 2014


In this article, an analysis is made of Norwegian Human Rights organisations (HROs), their involvement in the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, and consequences for their involvement in subsequent Games.  We attempt to identify the organisations’ understanding of the Olympic Games as an arena for human rights activism and how “Olympic activism” provides meaning to the organisations’ work. The analysis exposes an interesting paradox. On the one hand, HROs recognise that the Olympic Games and the global human rights engagement did not contribute to an improvement of the human rights situation in China, but possibly led to a deterioration of the situation in certain areas. On the other hand, the conclusion was drawn that the Olympic Games engagement was a success in so far as it drew attention to the organisations and yielded greater legitimacy among the Norwegian population. The question is raised as to whether the experience of the Beijing Olympic Games campaigns could play a role in the Norwegian HROs’ activist approach in future Games such as the approaching winter Olympic Games in Russia.

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About the Authors

ANDERS HASSELGÅRD is a former professional football player. He holds a PhD studentship within “Sport for Development and Peace” (SDP) at the Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (NSSS), Department of Cultural and Social Studies. He is also head of the study program “Sport, culture and development cooperation” at NSSS.  Hasselgård has previously earned a master’s degree in political science and worked as a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (the research project “Sports and Reconciliation”).  He is currently working on a doctoral thesis on the Norwegian SDP engagement in the Global South and his main interests in this respect concerns international development aid and international politics.

ANDREAS SELLIAAS works as a Communication Adviser to Norsk Tipping (Norwegian National Lottery). He has worked four years as a Special Adviser to Norwegian Olympic and Paralympic Committee and Confederation of Sports (NIF)  and seven years as a researcher at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI). At NUPI, Selliaas initiated the research project “Sports and Reconciliation”, and he headed the project “Terrorism Studies”, where his special field of expertise was “Terrorism and International Sports Events”. He is a frequent commentator in Norwegian media on sports politics and policy issues, and his blog on sport and politics is one of the most read sports blogs in the Nordic Countries (