Svein Arne was born on 6 May 1946 and grew up in Bygdøy, close to the Norwegian capital Oslo. Involved in a variety of sports during his youth, he graduated from university with a degree in mathematics.
Early in his career, Hansen became a qualified athletics official and also embarked on his sports administration career as a member of the Norwegian Athletics Federation Junior Committee. From 1972 for 12 years, he worked as the assistant to the Bislett Games organiser Arne Hauvik.
In 1985, he became meeting director of the legendary one-day meeting and stayed in that role for 24 years. In that time the Bislett Games was part of the IAAF Grand Prix, Golden Four, Golden League and became a founding member of the World Athletics Diamond League.
Hansen was a member of the IAAF Grand Prix Commission from 1985 to 1998 and a Member of the IAAF Golden League working group from 1997 to 2009.
He also served as President of EuroMeetings from 1998 to 2006.
Hansen was Vice President of the Norwegian Athletics Federation from 2001 to 2003 and President of the Federation from 2003 to 2015.
He previously served as Vice President of European Athletics from 2007 to 2011 and was part of the Executive Board, as well as being Chairman of the European Athletics Development Committee during that period.
He was elected President of European Athletics in 2015 and re-elected unopposed in April 2019.
His five-year tenure as President of European Athletics was notable for the introduction of innovative new competitive ideas, such as the multi-sport 2018 European Championships, which incorporated the Berlin 2018 European Athletics Championships, as well as Dynamic New Athletics and The Match Europe vs USA in Minsk last year.
Hansen was also a driving force behind improving the governance and gender balance of European Athletics and its Member Federations.
He died on 20 June 2020 at the age of 74 and survived by his wife Janicke, his son Philip and daughter Thine.