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Reviewed by:
  • Idrett for alle. Norges idraettsforbund 150 år, 1861–2011
  • Johnny Wijk
Gokosoyr, Matti. Idrett for alle. Norges idraettsforbund 150 år, 1861–2011. H. Aschehoug & Co., 2010. Pgs. 279. 499 kr.

In 2011, Norwegian sport celebrated its 150th anniversary. To mark this eminent jubilee Prof. Matti Goksoyr had been commissioned to write a comprehensive book on its 150-year history. The result is an impressive 275-page publication, which takes the reader on a fascinating trip from nineteenth-century sporting activities with group gymnastics, rifle shooting and skating, to twenty-first-century commercialized competitive sport including new forms of open-air activities and adventure sports. In this respect Norwegian sport history also represents a story of general sport development in the industrialized world, where organized sport gradually passes from being primarily a hobby and leisure activity for the upper classes to becoming a wider social concern for all population layers, and ultimately for the state, municipalities, and commercial market, too. It is a success story about how sport occupies more and more space in the social sphere: in political decisions, mass media, the entertainment industry, the labor market and, not least, in many people’s everyday lives when participating in physical exercise, competitions and youth leadership or forming elite sport crowds.

There is no doubt that in twentieth-century Norway sport acquired a strong position throughout society, in broad popular sports as well as in elite successes in world championships [End Page 346] and Olympic games, especially in winter sports. Another striking aspect of Norwegian sport history is that there are probably few countries worldwide where sport has played and still plays such a great part in strengthening national identity. Corresponding phenomena are also to be found, e.g., in Australia with its summer sports like tennis, swimming, and rugby or in Canada with its ice hockey. The common feature is that of fairly young nations taking pride in promoting sport as something that unites and gives free rein to national emotions and strong collective manifestations around the nation flag. The same tendency is noticeable in the new nations formed in the late twentieth century, e.g., after the collapse of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. Sport is probably the easiest national phenomenon to embrace to quickly create and manifest national emotions.

This book on Norwegian sport history from 1861 till the present is chronologically divided into four parts. With its commemorative character it naturally aims at a wide readership, as apparent by the illustrations, which comprise about half the page space, and also by the analytical, problematizing text that guides the reader through 150 years of sport history. The scope and quality of the illustrations—supplemented by informative captions—is such that these alone make the history easy to digest. They include fine pictures of nineteenth-century sportsmen in various different sports. The great twentieth-century Norwegian sports heroes, some of them international stars, are immortalized like skater Knut “Kuppern” Johannesen, figure skater Sonja Henie, runner Grete Waitz, skiers Gjermund Eggen, Oddvar Brå and Marit Björgen, cyclist Knut Knudsen, golfer Susann Pettersen, etc. Illustrations and captions cover recreational sports arrangements, youth, and disability sport, all reflecting the core of Norwegian sport history.

Within the chronological structure Goksoyr intersperses thematic in-depth sections. The section on the nineteenth-century organization of sport describes how new clubs were formed, particularly for shooting, gymnastics, skating, and skiing. The National Rifle Association from 1861 anticipates the forming in 1893 of the Norwegian Sports Federation and in 1910 of the National Confederation of Sport. The gradual advancement of British sport in Norway led to new quickly growing sports, thereby continuing the “sportification” process.

The early twentieth-century growth and social broadening of sport are also described. A conflict arose between the two overarching organizations, partly concerning state funding. Simultaneously, the Workers’ Sport Association emerged as an ideological alternative to established competitive sport. With its growing popularity sport was approached by commercial interests like private pools agencies. However, the revenues, which were so vital to sport, were soon taken over by state and organized sport.

In Norway during the Second World War everything was marked by the German occupation. Sport chose its own...


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pp. 346-348
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