Both for the WOC Final and for the WOC Qualification over the Long distance the start interval is increased from 2 minutes till 3 minutes, according to reports from the IOF meetings in Helsinki last week. This is very good news for the work for fairness in orienteering, as increased start interval has been found to be the best (and only really effective?) measure for separating runners in orienteering.
An extensive report on separating methods in Orienteering was published at the end of 2009. In the report, the conclusion was that “in National and International Championships with live TV coverage, the start interval can hardly be increased” due to TV (I co-authored the report, but I personally disagreed with this part of the conclusion). The issue has been debated a lot, and in a poll at World of O more than 80% of the readers wanted increased start interval for the WOC long distance.
A good decision by the IOF – the WOC long distance can still be very attractive for TV as a partly recorded/partly live transmission.
On the downside, the IOF removed the rule 26.2,
- 26.2 In an individual interval start race, competitors shall navigate and run through the terrain independently.
The Nordic Orienteering Federations are very upset with the removal of this rule, and are now sending a protest letter to the IOF according to the article. See also article/discussion at Alternativet.nu (Swedish language).
The reasoning for removing the rule, is according to what I have heard that this rule is problematic due to protests not leading to disqualification even when runners did clearly run together for large parts of the course (protests in WOC 2005 and WOC 2009). An alternative instead of removing the rule altogether, might have been to rephrase the rule back towards its old wording: “In an individual interval start race, competitors are expected to navigate and run through the terrain independently”.
The Swedish Orienteering Federation is considering taking the opposite route – they might introduce a rule for Swedish competitions disqualifying runners who are within 12 seconds for more than 3 controls in a row (Swedish text).
Do you think it was a good decision by IOF to remove this rule? Is the Swedish alternative better? Do you see any better alternatives?
Article updated February 4th, 16:15 CET