This weekend, the government signed an agreement with the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland (ÍSÍ) on the formulation of policy concerning elite sports. Former Olympian and coach Vésteinn Hafsteinsson has been hired to oversee the project.
Towards an improved environment for elite athletes
During a press conference in Gothenburg, Sweden, last Saturday, January 21, the Ministry of Education and Children’s Affairs and the National Olympic and Sports Association of Iceland signed an agreement on the formulation of policy concerning elite sports in Iceland. As part of the agreement, Vésteinn Hafsteinsson – former Olympic athlete and coach – will relocate to Iceland to collaborate with the government to formulate measures on how best to improve the status and rights of elite athletes in Iceland.
Minister Ásmundur Einar Daðason has also appointed a special working group comprised of interested parties to collaborate on the project, which Vésteinn Hafsteinsson will lead. The aim is to create “the best possible framework for elite sports in Iceland” and to put “high-performance athletes on equal footing with their competitors on an international level.”
Highly experienced athlete and coach
The government’s press release notes that Vésteinn, as a coach and former top-ranked discus thrower, is “familiar with the conditions required to shape and sustain elite athletic performance.” Last year, Vésteinn was chosen Coach of the Year in Sweden, having helped Swedish discus throwers Daniel Stahl and Simon Pettersson secure gold and silver medals respectively at the Tokyo Olympics. Vésteinn has been involved in a wide variety of sports over the years, both in Iceland and abroad, and “knows the environment and the athletes well.”
Vésteinn has been hired for the next five years to formulate policy changes with the government and, in the future, follow up on the implementation of this policy in cooperation with the Ministry of Education and Children’s Affairs and ÍSÍ. Vésteinn will also assume the role of ÍSÍ’s Performance Manager where he will, among other things, supervise ÍSÍ’s Achievement Strategy (Afreksstefnu) and aid Icelandic competitors in preparation for the Olympics.
“It is very pleasing to cooperate with Vésteinn on this important project,” Ásmundur Einar Daðason, Minister of Education and Children’s Affairs, stated at the press conference. “Elite athletes are role models. They inspire and motivate us. They prove that we can achieve excellent results, despite our smallness. This initiative will serve to strengthen sports across the board, while at the same time stimulating recreation and solidarity. Our top athletes do not enjoy the same support as their foreign counterparts. Nor do they have access to the same facilities. They also do not enjoy the same civil liberties as the rest of us. This needs to be fixed. With a new national stadium, we improve our facilities. And now begins a review of our entire framework for elite sports in Iceland as stipulated in the government agreement.”
As noted on the government’s website, the aim of the work, going forward, is to review and propose changes to the framework, legislation, and other aspects deemed necessary to provide support for elite athletes in Iceland. The working group is tasked with examining, in particular, the cost of participation in national-team activities for competitors and their families, as well as examining the civil liberties of accomplished athletes within the state’s different social support systems.