Sporting success and the competitive advantages of countries are found within individual sports’ contexts. Different authors contributed to the need of research on elite sport practices in specific sports, but so far, no research identified key determinants or evaluated sport practices leading to a competitive advantage in a country-by-country comparison. Therefore, the purpose of this PhD study is to identify how nations develop a competitive advantage in athletics.
In the first study, 98 key organisational resources and first-order capabilities were identified and categorised in the 10 dimensions of the ORFOC-framework (Organisational Resources and First Order Capabilities), congruent to common dimensions of elite sport development. In the second and third study, a method to evaluate the organisational capacity of countries in athletics has been developed and applied in a five sport system comparison (Canada, Finland, Flanders, the Netherlands and Wallonia). The method represents the development of composite indicators that can be used to evaluate the key organisational resources in athletics. Additionally, the method uses a configuration analysis to review the alignment of resources into specific resource configurations. The results indicate that for six dimensions of the ORFOC framework, Finland obtained the highest composite index score, followed by Canada and the Netherlands. Flanders (talent identification and development), the Netherlands (coach provisions and development) and Canada (training and competition facilities) obtained the highest competitive index score in one of the ORFOC dimensions. The configuration analysis revealed that these sport systems organise their resources differently. The sport systems vary in relation to program centralisation, athlete development, and funding prioritisation.
In the fourth study, a market based analysis on top 8 and medal success at world championships and Olympic Games provided evidence of a systematic decrease of competitive balance in athletics. Additionally, the international competition is very dynamic as market shares changed significantly between countries.
The comparison of five sport systems helps understand how countries develop strategy from specific resources and capabilities and poses significant implications for high performance managers and policy makers.