From disability-based to sport-based organisations: boundaries and practices at play during institutional change processes

Simon Gerard

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The governance of the Paralympic Movement experienced significant transformations during the 1980s, a period within which the legitimacy of the International Organisations for Sport of the Disabled (i.e. ISMGF, ISOD, CP-ISRA and IBSA; later joined by INAS-FMH and CISS) became increasingly contested (Brittain, 2016; Gerard et al., 2017). The disability-based structuration of the Paralympic Movement at the international level and the ‘medical’ classification system, partitioning athletes according medical considerations, became the object of strategic and political debates. Apex of this contestation, an important seminar occurred in 1987 (Arnhem, The Netherlands) during which delegates from various national and international sport organisations had the opportunity to discuss sports programmes, organizational structuration and sport classifications (ICC, 1986). A set of 23 recommendations was voted, notably to promote more integrated classification systems (n° 18), to create closer links with international sports organisations for the able-bodied (n° 21) and to develop organizations according to sport rather than categorical disability (n°23) (ICC, 1987). Following this seminar and after two years of harsh negotiation, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) was created by the 6 IOSDs and 31national delegations. A new functional classification system – looking at how much an impairment impacts sport performance – was also gradually implemented in different sports and disciplines. Based on the institutional theory (Greenwood et al., 2008), this study aims to investigate strategies deployed by groups of actors within the Paralympic Movement to protect, or in the contrary, to transform 1) the athletes’ classification systems – conceptualized as sets of shared and legitimated organizational practices (Whittington, 2006) and 2) the structuration of the Paralympic Movement – understood as institutional boundaries that distinguish between group and people (Lamont & Molnár, 2002). Archival records were collated in relevant national and international sport organizations as well as in the personal collection of key actors, having hold or still holding important positions in the Paralympic Movement. Approximatively 850 pages of archives, including press releases, minutes of meetings, newspapers, reports, official and personal correspondences were analyzed and provided a rich account of the development of the Paralympic Movement during the period of investigation. In terms of results, this study unpacks distinctive sets of strategies aimed at creating, maintaining and changing boundaries and practices within the Paralympic Movement. It also allows to shed new light on a critical episode for the Paralympic Movement, highlighting the political tensions and rivalries that entail its development during the 1980s. Brittain, I. (2016) The Paralympic Games Explained. 2nd edition. Abingdon: Routledge. Gérard, S., Legg, D. and Zintz, T. (2017) Multi-level analysis of institutional formation and change: The case of the Paralympic movement. Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal 7 (5), 515-541. Greenwood, R., Oliver, C., Suddaby, R. and Sahlin-Andersson, K. (2008) The Sage Handbook of Organizational Institutionalism. London: Sage Publications. ICC (1986) Invitation for the ICC Seminar on Structure and Future of Sports fro Disabled. ICC (1987) ICC Newsletter 87/1. 2-3. Lamont, M. and Molnàr, V. (2002) The Study of Boundaries in the Social Sciences. Annual Review of Sociology 28, 167-195. Whittington, R. (2006) Completing the practice turn in strategy research. Organization studies 27 (5), 613-634.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2018
EventDisability Sport: What will its legacy be? - Coventry University, Coventry, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Sept 20185 Sept 2018


ConferenceDisability Sport: What will its legacy be?
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


Dive into the research topics of 'From disability-based to sport-based organisations: boundaries and practices at play during institutional change processes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this