Barents Sports is a joint project between Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia aimed at young people aged 15–25 and involving up to 10,000 young adults every year.
The purpose of Barents Sports is for sporting activity to involve as many young people as possible across the borders. It should contribute towards breaking down political, cultural and social barriers.
In terms of sport, the aim is to improve quality across the board. The Barents Cooperation strives to function as a platform for an increased exchange of athletes, coaches and managers to hone expertise and skills, and increase tolerance. Encouraging physical activity for all is also a significant goal.
The formal Cap of the North Cooperation was launched in 1950 via an agreement between the sports associations in Finland, Norway and Sweden. Norway was the driving force in getting things off the ground. Sport in Norway and Finland had a lot of catching up to do after the Second World War. Sweden had both the expertise and the resources to help rebuild the sporting organisations in neighbouring countries. Furthermore, north–south communication was both inadequate and time-consuming in all three countries. So the natural inclination was to focus on east–west contact.
In 1960, an agreement was entered into between the sporting organisations of East-Finnmark and the Murmansk region. The agreement related to cross-border sporting cooperation. This was back in the days of the Cold War, but despite a number of minor setbacks, the collaboration has continued right up until the present day. The contact that was established in this way with Russia also served as a model for international cooperation in the Barents region, a collaboration that was established in 1994, when Russia joined as the fourth party in the Cap of the North Cooperation, which changed its name to Barents Cooperation in 1997.
Over the years the most important platform for the collaboration has been the Cap of the North Contest, now called the Barents Matches. The Barents Matches have included at most some 20 different sports. Since 2013, a joint competition has also been established for around 30 different sports under the name Barents Games.
In addition to the various competitions, the collaboration also includes courses, training camps, seminars, a coach exchange and cooperation at club level. Sport is a huge aspect of people-to-people cooperation in the Barents region. This is why it is extremely satisfying to see that there is now more exchange in the east–west passage than ever before.
Barents Sports has long had a strong link to the Barents Secretariat and its sports programme, which focuses on strengthening the exchange with Russia and Russian sport.
The geographical borders for Barents Sports are in Sweden: Norrbotten and Västerbotten counties, Norway: Finnmark, Troms and Nordland. Finland: Lapland, Kainuu and Oulu regions. Russia: Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Komi, Nenets and Karelia.