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«Master`s Thesis, Peace and Conflict Studies Department of Archaeology, Conversation and History UNIVERSITY OF OSLO 23 May 2016 II Sports, Politics ...»

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Sports, Politics and Human Rights

The Greek Junta and the participation

debate in front of the 1969 European

Athletic Championship

Karl Jostein Heyerdahl Nyquist

Master`s Thesis, Peace and Conflict Studies

Department of Archaeology, Conversation and History


23 May 2016


Sports, Politics and Human Rights

The Greek Junta and the participation

debate in front of the 1969 European

Athletic Championship

Karl Jostein Heyerdahl Nyquist Supervisor: Jan Eivind Myhre Master`s Thesis, Peace and Conflict Studies Department of Archaeology, Conversation and History


23 May 2016 III © Karl Jostein Heyerdahl Nyquist 2016 Sports, Politics and Human rights – The Greek Junta and the participation debate in front of the 1969 European Athletic Championship Karl Jostein Heyerdahl Nyquist http://www.duo.uio.no/ Print: Reprosentralen, Universitetet i Oslo IV Abstract This dissertation examines the relationship between politics and sports in Norway during the Cold War in general, and in particular the debate in front the 1969 European Athletic Championship on whether Norwegian athletes and the Norwegian media should boycott.

Norwegian foreign policy, was in the postwar era, concentrated on security and defense due to the Cold War climate and the threat of Soviet expansion. In the 1960s, we can see a trend were states became more concerned about international human rights, also in Norway.

Conducting a foreign policy based on moralism and at the same time, protecting strategical self-interest was challenging for Norwegian authorities. In 1967, a military junta seized power in Greece. The new regime was quickly accused for violating basic human rights, evoking strong reactions in Norway. At the same time, Greece was the host of an international sporting event. The question was whether sports should be separated from politics, or if sports should become a part of Norwegian foreign policy protesting against the human rights violation within the regime.

This thesis contains a descriptive section, which examines the debate in detail, as one important part of this research was to map out major actors and arguments, and understand the process which eventually led to Norwegian participation in the championship. The analytic part discusses the empirical findings, and aims at understand the political interaction with sports. I have found out that the push to politicize the championship came from the Norwegian labor movement, which in 1969 wanted to use sports to react against the regime.

Their commitment against participation is an early example of international human rights activism. However, Norwegian sports leaders wanted to make individual choices, and allowed participation. Conservative forces supported the decision. The embedded norm at the time was that politics should be kept out of sports. This is one factor explaining why the nonsocialist government chose to stay out of the debate. However, Norwegian participation became a concern for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Their policy concerning the championship was divided. In the public, the Ministry did not want to politicize the championship. Behind closed doors, diplomats received orders for how to behave during the events.


The relationship between politics and sports is of personal interest. As a former competitor in sports, and today a student in international relations it felt natural to combine these two interests. However, I owe my gratitude to the Director of the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies, Sven G. Holtsmark, for his guidance in the developing phase of this project. Without our conversations, this project would have never come to light. Your interest in this topic gave me the confidence to pursue this thesis.

I would like to thank my supervisor Jan Eivind Myhre for showing sincere commitment to this project. Our interesting conversations have helped a lot.

I also want to thank my fellow students at the Peace and Conflict Studies program for valuable comments to my ideas during our seminar sessions. Thanks to James, Elliot and Molly for correctional reading, I really appreciate it. Thanks to Maren and my family for the love and support through this process.

Finally, I am profoundly grateful to Arne Kvalheim and Helge Pahro for our conversations, and that both wanted to share their personal thoughts behind the decision to boycott the the 1969 Championship. Your knowledge about the debate in front of the championship was highly valuable.

Karl Jostein H. Nyquist Oslo, May 2016.

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1 Introduction

Starting point – the military junta and the IX European Athletic Championship....... 3 1.1

1.2 Current research situation and theoretical considerations

Sports and politics – Norwegian literature

1.2.1 1.2.2 The history of human rights and Norwegian foreign policy

1.2.3 Sports and International Relations

1.3 Research questions

1.4 Limitations

1.5 Sources and methodological considerations

1.5.1 Archives

1.5.2 Newspapers

1.5.3 Interviews

1.6 Structure

2 Background: sports, politics and human rights in the early Cold War

2.1 Sports is politics

2.1.1 Controversies 1945-1969

2.2 Norwegian foreign policy 1945-1969

2.2.1 Reflections on the human rights aspect in foreign policy

2.2.2 Norway prioritize NATO

2.2.3 Norway and the development of human rights

2.3 Norwegian reactions to the Greek regime

2.3.1 The Nast-case

2.3.2 The Council of Europe and NATO

2.3.3 Conclusion

3 The process leading to participation in Greece

3.1 Actors within Norwegian sports

3.2 Political actors

3.3 Newspapers

3.4 The participation debate

XI 3.4.1 Escalation

3.4.2 Athletes boycotts the championship

3.4.3 NIF reconsiders its decision

3.4.4 Reactions to final decision

3.5 Concluding Remarks

3.5.1 Why did the NIF approve participation?

3.5.2 Why did Kvalheim and Pharo boycott?

4 The Media debate

4.1 Media actors

4.2 Political actors

4.3 Newspapers announce their boycott

4.3.1 Aftenposten argues differently

4.4 Unexpected decision by NRK

4.4.1 The process within NRK

4.4.2 Reactions

4.5 The debate in neighboring countries

4.6 Concluding remarks

5 Understanding political involvement in sports

5.1 Why was the labor movement pushing for boycott?

5.1.1 An advocate for human rights and democratic values?

5.2 Political preference and boycott, 1969

5.2.1 similar cases

5.3 Why did the championship never turn into a large-scale political debate?............... 72 5.3.1 Was it a political motive behind not mixing politics and sports?

5.4 Why did the NIF boycott only some countries in the Cold War?

5.5 Concluding remarks

6 Conclusion

6.1 The participation debate

6.2 The relationship between politics and sports

Bibliography and References

XII 1 Introduction This thesis wishes to explore the relationship between politics and sports during the Cold War. The case I wish to study is the 1969 European Athletic Championship in Greece and the debate within Norway on whether Norwegian athletes should participate in or boycott the championship. From 1967, Greece was ruled by a dictatorship led by a military junta accused of violating basic human rights. Norwegian politicians had to assess how the Norwegian state should react against these accusations of human rights violations and the dismantlement of democratic institutions in a western European state and fellow NATO member. At the same time, Greece was supposed to host an international sports event, leading to tense discussions within Norway. This thesis seeks to examine the debate from different angles. One aspect investigates to what extent politicians and public opinion interfered in the question of participation in the European Championship, namely, whether sports should be used as a foreign policy tool in response to the regime. I will also examine how the Norwegian Confederation of Sports (NIF),1 the governing umbrella of organization sports in Norway, and the Norwegian Athletic Association (NFIF)2 dealt with non-sports factors surrounding the championship.

Politics have played an important role in the history of Norwegian sports since the 1800s.3 As interest in sports grew tremendously from the beginning of the 20th century, international competitions between nations became more normalized. Today sports represent a billion dollar industry and a well-established actor within the international political and economic sphere. Different aspects of sports and its role in modern society led to many questions and debates. One of the issues that received attention in Norway was whether sports should be politically neutral and separated from international political controversies.4 It is necessary to explain what is meant with the expression “politics and sports”. Sports and politics intertwine both within states and between states on the international arena. How sports are influenced by 1 The Norwegian Confederation of Sports was founded in 1861 as Centralforeningen for Udbredelse af Legemsøvelser og Vaabenbrug. The organization has changed name several times. In 1969, the organization was named Norges Idrettsforfund. Today the official name is Norges idrettsforbund og Olympiske og Paralympiske Komitè. In this this thesis the organization will be referred to as NIF.

2 The Norwegian Athletic Association was established in 1896, named Norges Friidrettsforbund. In this thesis, the federation will be referred to as NFIF or Athletic Association.

3 For a detailed study on the early years of organized sports in Norway see Olstad, Forsvar, sport, Klassekamp, 1861-1939, Volume 1, Norsk idrettshistorie.

4 Tønnesson, Folkehelse, Trim, Stjerner 1939-1986, Volume 2, Norsk Idrettshistorie.

1 politics within states naturally differs in each country. Examples of domestic issues that have received political attention in Norway includes the conflict between the two main Confederations of Sports in the interwar period, to what extent organized sport should become a tool in improving public health, or the level of government funding in organized sports.5 Another aspect of sport and politics is the connection between sport and international affairs.

Political actors have used international sporting competitions as means in achieving some sort of political gains in various ways. International sporting competitions have been used by states and non-state actors to recognize new states, establish diplomatic connections, as a propaganda tool, for nationalistic purposes in symbolic competition with other states, as an arena for terrorist-attacks and demonstrations, or as a stage to react against other states` unwelcome actions and policies.6 My study will focus on the latter understanding of the overlap between sports and politics. However these issues may overlap, and as Professor of Sport Policy, Barrie Houlihan points out “unfortunately distinctions between domestic and international functions of sport are by no means watertight”.7 There are numerous examples in the 20th century which demonstrates the close relationship between international politics and sports. This was particularly apparent during the Cold War era, a period where it was difficult to distinguish sports policies from national interests.8 The Soviet Union chose to take part in the Olympic Games for the first time in Helsinki 1952, where rivalry between the two superpowers spilled over into the sports arena. The interaction between international politics and sport in the Cold War will be further discussed in the background chapter for this thesis. However, it is important highlight that the interaction between sport and politics was not just a “Cold War phenomenon”, and is today more relevant than ever before. In 2008, China hosted the Olympic Games for the first time. Ahead of the Games was massive international focus directed towards China`s troubled human rights record. Six years later it was Russia`s turn to host the XXII Olympic Winter Games, in Sochi.

The Games was again used to direct attention, in particular by non-governmental 5 Mangset and Rommetvedt, Idrett og Politikk; Olstad, Forsvar, sport, Klassekamp, 1861-1939, Volume 1, Norsk idrettshistorie.

6 Cha, “A theory of sports and politics”; Houlihan, “Politics and sport”; Houlihan, Sport and International relations; Levermore and Budd, Sport and Internatoinal Relations.

7 Houlihan, Sport & International Politics, 8.

8 Tønnesson, Folkehelse, Trim, Stjerner 1939-1986, Volume 2, Norsk Idrettshistorie, 292-294.

2 organizations, towards internal conditions in Russia and the LGBT propaganda law.9 Nonsporting factors characterized other sports arenas than the Olympic Games as well. The latest discoveries of massive drug abuse in sports in general, and in particular by Russian athletes supposedly supported by their own organization and political leaders has drawn negative attention to the world of sports.10 The international football organization FIFA, has in recent years experienced several bribery and corruption scandals. One of them is connected to the World Cup Championship in 2022, awarded for the first time to an Arabic country (Qatar 2022). Additionally, FIFA and the authorities in Qatar have been exposed to massive criticism due to the lack of labor standards. In May 2015, Amnesty International published a report assessing measures promised by the authorities in Qatar to improve the situation. The conclusion was that the announced improvements have not yet been implemented.11 In Norway, 2016 has so far been a rough year for sport leaders within the Confederation of Sports, who faced accusations of overspending and lack of transparency.12

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