The Norse Code: A Performance Culture Rooted in Values
In Istanbul’s Atatürk Stadium, an imposing figure steps onto the sacred turf of the Champions League final. Erling Haaland, an undeniable beacon of football, one of the sporting giants of our time. At the same time on the ochre dust of Roland Garros, Casper Ruud prepares for another final, after his convincing 3-0 victory over Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals of the French Open. Meanwhile, the sporting heroics of Karsten Warholm, Victor Hovland, and Martin Ødegaard unfold on various stages, from hurdle tracks to golf greens. Together, these heroes form the golden generation of Norwegian athletes. They embody a performance culture in which fair play, determination, and glory coexist harmoniously.
Casper Ruud was awarded the Stefan Edberg Sportsmanship Award in 2022, the first tennis player in 20 years apart from Nadal and Federer. His fine manners are repeatedly highlighted by legends such as Mats Wilander. Less than 24 hours after winning $3.6 million at the Memorial Tournament, Viktor Hovland was caddying for his friend at the U.S. Open, and on TV, he is praised weekly by golf legends for his gameplay and interaction with other players. At just 22 years old, Ødegaard was made team captain, and Haaland gave his teammate Gündogan a penalty in a tight game in the middle of the season finale, giving him the chance for a hat trick, even though Haaland could have broken “unreachable” records and it could have even endangered the championship when Gündogan missed. It is precisely these world athletes, standing at the forefront of sports galas, who stand up for values and are praised week after week by journalists and presenters in their sports.
What it’s about was described by Karsten Warholm when he was awarded the “Role Model of the Year” award: “I am concerned with using my influence in a good way, which means I have to say ‘No’ to offers and opportunities that contradict my values” “The thing about values”, he continued “is that they rarely mean anything until it really matters. And that’s what I want to prove, something I can stand up for when things go a little against the grain.”
At the core lies a Norwegian model rooted in values and integrity. The sporting successes of the small country of Norway, with its 5.5 million inhabitants, underscore the intrinsic value of sports as a common good. The Scandinavian nation harbours a special affinity for spreading the joy of sport, a philosophy that constantly creates world-class talents in disciplines from golf to soccer and tennis – and, less surprisingly, in winter sports. Norway’s sporting ethos celebrates inclusivity, welcomes the participation of individuals from the entire social spectrum, and recognises sport as a language that overcomes societal divisions and promotes personal growth.
Norway’s mantra – “Joy in sport” – directs its sporting culture far beyond the pursuit of gold and glory. There is a focus on personal growth, physical health, and the acquisition of life skills. In Norway, one learns to enjoy progress. Positivity and activation lead to success, as all parties from small clubs to the high-performance squad of the Olympic Centre are convinced. And the successes speak for themselves. This holistic philosophy promotes balanced individuals who not only repeatedly surpass themselves in sports, but are also ambassadors of principles such as integrity, empathy, and resilience.
Norway’s commitment to integrity extends to the broader sports landscape, particularly through a firm stance against doping. Norway’s commitment to maintaining a level playing field has won admiration and respect worldwide. These athletes stand for clean sport and inspire athletes around the world to commit to similar standards.
DUGNAD – EVERYONE JOINS IN
“Dugnad” is the concept behind it. It is ancient and has been shared by Norwegians for generations. The word means “participation” and describes an inherent societal value. As a concept, it encompasses volunteer work for the common good and permeates Norway’s sporting ecosystem. The national focus on broad participation and equal access to sport forms the foundation of success. Children are encouraged to try different sports, promote a love for physical activity, and build a versatile sporting base that allows talents like Haaland, Ruud, Warholm, Hovland, and Ødegaard to flourish.
Dugnad extends beyond grassroots development and gives local clubs and volunteer organizations a crucial role. Clubs not only promote unity and a sense of belonging, but they are an expression of community and the lifeblood of community spirit. The involvement of families and volunteers in everything from fundraising to coaching strengthens the fabric of the Norwegian sports landscape. Sport in this context is more than individual achievement – it is a shared experience that contributes to the well-being of society.
Norway’s sporting strength is no accident – it is carefully cultivated by living the playful side of the performance society. The Norwegian model, which prioritizes inclusivity and a holistic approach, creates an environment where fair play, determination, and glory can thrive harmoniously. Norway’s athletes inspire not only through their sporting achievements, but also through the profound social impact of sport.
As a native Norwegian, my patriotism swells in the face of the achievements of our golden generation, but I also see in the Viking Way a blueprint that goes beyond sport – it can inspire leaders in politics, business, and society at large. As the world applauds Norway’s athletic triumphs, we should focus more on the crucial role of values and integrity in the pursuit of excellence. After all, this is the true code of the modern Viking.