The WOC in the future groups suggestions are up: A prologue + chasing start race and a sprint relay is introduced – and all qualifications are removed except for the sprint. – It is proposed that WOC is divided into three blocks, “Sprint”, “Middle” and “Traditional” with a rest day in between each block, to give the organisers, TV, etc. time to re-group equipment and set-up in a new arena, IOF writes on their webpage.
The full proposal includes some interesting detailing not available at the web version of the proposal, e.g.
- Notably, the proposal means introducing a chasing start rather than a mass start, which was part of the project remits. The reason for this is that in consultations with TV and other media it has been concluded that a chasing start has considerable advantage over a mass start concerning production economy and the possibility for spectators and commentators to understand the development of the race, while still offering the element of first-to-finish . (A mass-start is foreseen to need complicated
forking models to make it fair.)
- The order of events within the Sprint- and Traditional blocks is free to be decided by each organisers, whereas the order of events in the Middle block should be fixed.
- The project group has found two main alternatives for comparing federations strength in order to award starting slots. The first alternative is the World Ranking system. This model reflects the overall activity and strength of a nation over an entire season, and is therefore seen as a realistic measure. The second alternative is to use the nation s performance at WOC (the last WOC or latest WOC s) which compares a nation s ability to perform at WOC specifically. It has not been possible to conclude on a united view within the project group in this matter, thought there seems to be a stronger support for using the World Ranking system.
- It is proposed that each federation can enter 1 man and 1 woman to the middle distance final. Additional starting slots are based on the nations strength. The number of nations receiving additional slots needs to be balanced by the size of the start field which should not exceed 75 starters.
- Long final: The number of nations receiving additional slots needs to be balanced by the size of the start
field which should not grow significantly larger than in the current model (editors comment: 45 starters).
The proposal for a new WOC program was presented at the WIF (WOC in the Future) page at the IOF webpage today. The IOF member federations now have until the 10th April 2011 to give their views and comments to the proposal. The input received will be analysed and the program possibly adjusted before a final proposal will be delivered to the IOF Council for its meeting on 5th May 2011. The Council will then decide on the further presentation of the matter to the 2011 President’s Conference in conjunction with the World Orienteering Championships in France.
The suggested program consists of 6 competition days – medals being awarded every competition day:
|1||SPRINT||Sprint individual (qualification+final)||Sprint relay|
|2||SPRINT||Sprint relay (mixed teams)||Sprint individual|
|5||MIDDLE||Prologue + Chasing start|
Consequences for the runners
Removing two qualification races means that qualifications have to be done based on prior results. It is not yet decided if this will be based on WRE points, on prior WOC results or based on some other/combined criteria. This is the suggestions for qualifications/number of guaranteed starters for each nation:
Summing up the main consequences of this proposal for the runners:
- For top runners / biggest orienteering nations. There will be no big consequences, as no disciplines are suggested removed from the program compared to today. Instead two extra disciplines are added (sprint relay and chasing start) and two races are removed (long qualification and middle qualification). The main downside will probably be that it is suggested that the long distance is organized the day before the relay – but this is not difficult to change if there is interest for it as it would not influence the rest of the program. Another problem might be that the program is even tougher if the best want to run all disciplines – 7 full speed races is tougher than 5 full speed + 2 qualification races.
- For the runners from smaller orienteering nations / runners further down on the results list, it might be worse. Only one runner per nation is guaranteed a start in the middle distance, and no runners from the small nations are guaranteed a start in the long distance according to the proposal. Additional runners in these two traditional individual start races are based on the nations strength. On the other hand, 3 athletes per nation are allowed to start both in the chasing start and in the sprint qualification. And there will in addition be two of each gender in the sprint relay and three of each gender in the relay. Thus the number of guaranteed start spots for each nation is exactly the same as today – however some might feel that they loose the chance to fight in the “real orienteering disciplines”. It will be interesting to see the response of the “smaller” IOF member federations to this proposal.
Comment: Consequences for the orienteering sport
In my opinion, the work group did the wise move of not including a mass start in the suggested program (the downsides of a mass start are discussed here) – a chasing start is a significantly better alternative in my opinion. They also suggest to keep the traditional relay – also a good move in my opinion. Including a mixed relay was given as one of the guidelines to the work group, and was therefore probably not to be discussed. The good thing about this is that there will now be two races for the pure sprinters – making it more attractive to focus on sprint.
The downsides with the new program is that it might make it difficult to run all disciplines for the best runners. This is not necessarily good for the sport, but is seen in other sports as well. Also, including more gold medals might make each medal less valuable as some have suggested in the comments earlier.
The WIF group indicated that the WOC program proposal is positive for the smaller nations by writing “In the new programme a general idea has been to provide more opportunities than in the past for nations to be represented in WOC finals”. However, in my opinion the maybe biggest downside for the sport with the new suggested program is that runners from the smaller nations will now only have the sprint race and “first runner to the finish”-races to concentrate on (except for one runner from each nation who will be allowed to run the middle distance). Take a runner from a country who today fights for a place in the A-finals ; with the suggested program this runner will probably (depending on how many will be allowed in each final) only be allowed to start in the sprint, the sprint relay, the chasing start and the relay. Thus, this runner will loose the possibility to run “real orienteering” – i.e. finding your own way in unknown terrain. Training must then be refocused onto running speed, sprint and tactics instead of o-technique in order to be best prepared for WOC. Based on conversations with several runners in this position, I think this will make some runners from the smaller countries loose their motivation for the sport. But I might be wrong – they will be represented in more WOC finals…
Your opinion counts!
What do you think of this proposal? Is this good for the development of orienteering? For the runners? Add a comment below – and if you want your opinions to be heard, approach your federation with your opinions.
Update: Comment from Björn Persson, WIF project coordinator
The WIF project coordinator commented to this article in the comments below – the comment is rewritten here:
We are happy to note the interest and publicity given on “World of O” to the proposal on WOC in the Future. It is not our intention as a project group to enter the discussion or pursuing arguments, while the IOF federations now have the proposal for consideration. However, it is important that the intentions with our proposal is clear, and for this reason we want to make the below comment.
In the article, Jan suggests that the opportunity for “smaller” nations to run in WOC may become “worse” with the proposal. We believe that this is not the case. On the contrary, the program is designed to provide more opportunties for new and developing nations to run in, and have results from WOC finals.
During the four last WOC’s, the number of nations having been represented in WOC finals are as follows:
WLong MLong WMiddle MMiddle
2010 24 22 23 23
2009 22 22 22 22
2008 22 25 20 20
2007 22 25 24 24
New WOC 25-30 25-30 45+ 45+
It is correct that in theory, all nations have in the past had a chance to run a WOC final, if performing well in qualification. The above statistics shows the outcome in reality. Numbers are pretty consistent and reveals that about 60% of nations present at WOC have been represented in Middle and Long finals. With the new model, this opportunity will be higher for Long (about 70%), and significantly higher for Middle (simply 100%).
It is correct that the opportunity for individuals to run in WOC qualification races will go away. If this is considered negative, reactions will show. We believe that the value of WOC is about finals and one of our goals has been to raise the opportunity for nations to be represented in title races.
With two new formats proposed, sprint relay and chasing start, it will in fact be guaranteed for all nations to participate in as many as four finals, in comparison to the current model where only one final (relay) is guaranteed. In addition to this a nation can enter a full team in the Sprint Qualification. The only event where it is not guaranteed to start is the Long
final. Here the nation’s performance before WOC (either through World Ranking or results in earlier WOC’s) will be the deciding factor.
WIF project coordinator
To answer Björn Persson’s comment briefly, I think that overall the proposal is a very good one, based on the guidelines the work group worked after. Also, my intention was not to say that the opportunity for “smaller” nations to run in WOC is worse – as I pointed out they will have just as many guaranteed starts as previously. They will obviously also get the chance to run more finals than previously (at least, on average). The problem I described is the chance for individuals to run in individual start races – which I think can be a potential problem for the sport as discussed above, because many will have. But I might have overestimated that problem based on some conversations I have had with runners from “smaller” nations earlier – in the comments to this post this does not seem to be brought up as a major problem. Also, if you let the chasing start prologue be a possibility to get a “wild card” for the middle distance, i.e. letting the best 10 runners in the chasing start prologue who were not already qualified for the middle distance run the middle, I think that would make things a lot better.