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WOC in the Future: What now?


The future of the World Orienteering Championships (WOC) is getting more open after the IOF member federations’ feedback to the suggested WOC program have started being published. Of the responses posted so far, there is not exactly big support behind the WOC program suggested by the IOF.

Update 20.01.2012 15:00: The IOF Council just decided that it will not propose changes to the current World Championships programme at the upcoming General Assembly in Lausanne. “There is a significant difference of opinion between our bigger and smaller federations. At this point of time it is more important not to split the IOF family than to make the changes that received support in Trondheim in 2010”, IOF President Åke Jacobson said, and continued: “That is why we have decided to continue with the current programme.” Read more here.

Of the 8 federations who have posted their response online so far, only one (Ireland) is happy with the overall structure of the WOC program suggested by the IOF. All of the other 7 federations are strongly in favor of keeping the individual start middle distance race. There is also no big support for the mixed relay – although there seems to be support for a sprint relay. There is also strong support from most federations for developing the idea of splitting the WOC into a Forest WOC and Sprint WOC organized alternating every second year.

The best solution

– The best future WOC concept so far

– The best future WOC concept so far, Carl Waaler Kaas, comments the suggestions by the NORD countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark) to split the WOC into Forest WOC and Sprint WOC. – By the arguments used, splitting WOC seems like the best solution to me, Waaler Kaas continues.

Based on informal conversations with some of the other members of the “World Champions group” who were behind the petition against the suggested WOC program in September last year, this type of splitting of the WOC is an alternative many elite orienteers think is an interesting alternative which they want to get evaluated further.

Current status

The current status in defining a new program for future WOCs is that the IOF Council prepared a proposal for a new WOC program in October/November 2011 based on the work of the WOC in the future work group and feedback from the member federations (see the letter sent to the federations for feedback here). The federations were asked to consult all interested parties in their country, and provide feedback to the IOF by January 15th 2012 (last Sunday). When the IOF Council has received and discussed the feedback, the final proposal for a new WOC programme will be prepared and presented for the IOF General Assembly 2012 to be held in Lausanne, Switzerland.

wocfuture_council

The story about the future WOC program is getting long: see e.g. a background article from August 2010 here, news from the WOC in the Future work group in January 2011 here and here, WOC in the Future work group discussions in February 2011 here, the final recommendations of the WOC in the Future work group from March 2011 here, the IOF Council’s suggested program from September 2011 here, the protest of the Elite orienteers against IOF’s suggested program in September 2011 here, Sweden’s suggestion of splitting WOC into alternating Forest and Sprint WOCs in November 2011 here, or IOF’s summary of the process here.

Responses from Federations

Update 20.01.2012 15:00: Responses from all 19 federations who have answered are now published at the IOF website.

So far the following countries have posted their responses to IOF on the Internet (will be updated – please notify me if you know about responses from other federations):

  • The NORD countries (Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark) – have agreed on a common statement.
    • Summarized: Split WOC into Forest WOC and Sprint WOC organized alternating every second year. Forest WOC: Interval start long + middle. Mass start middle (opens up for chasing start with prologue as an alternative). Traditional Relay. Sprint WOC: Sprint as today, KnockOut sprint, Sprint relay (2 runners of same gender with 2 legs each on each team).
    • Compared to the IOF suggestion: Split WOC instead of the same WOC every year. Wants to keep the individual start middle distance and not remove it like the IOF suggestion. Do not introduce mixed relay like the IOF suggestion – but instead same gender sprint relay.
  • British Orienteering
    • Summarized: Keep all current WOC disciplines, including the Relay and the interval-start Middle. Addition of separate Men’s and Women’s Sprint Relays to the WOC program. Adjustment to the proposed schedule for the WOC competition week, so that athletes are not forced to choose between events in their preferred discipline. Further development of the Nordic proposal for alternating Sprint and Forest WOCs
    • Compared to the IOF suggestion: Wants to keep the individual start middle distance and not remove it like the IOF suggestion. Do not introduce mixed relay like the IOF suggestion – but instead same gender sprint relay.
  • Czech Republic
    • Summarized: Strongly disagree with the transformation of middle distance into a chasing-start race. Need specification of allocation of places for the long final. Don’t introduce any hasty changes to the current program. Would also recommend the biennal “forest WOC” and biennal “sprint WOC” to be considered.
    • Compared to the IOF suggestion: Wants to keep the individual start middle distance instead of removing it like the IOF suggests. No comments regarding mixed relay.
  • France
    • No full reponse has been posted – only a short statement saying that the French Federation follows the advice of the elite runners and coaches against the “reform” proposed by the IOF. An important rationale being that they want to keep the individual middle distance discipline.
  • Ireland
    • Summarized: The new Middle distance race format was most favoured, whilst the long distance qualification criteria caused the most concern. The high percentage of sprint/middle orienteering in the world champs programme may have a long term effect on more ‘classic’ orienteering. Overtime, a new elite type of orienteer who is focused more on shorter, urban sprint orienteering may eventually develop.
    • Compared to the IOF suggestion: Generally happy with the suggested program, except for strong concern regarding the qualification for the long distance.
  • Switzerland
    • No full response has been posted, but a summary has been posted on a private webpage o-zeugs.blogspot.com (thus this information should not be treated as official information). According to the summary, Switzerland do not want an extra final added to the WOC program. The program of today’s WOC should not be changed. WOC should be organized only every second year instead of every year as today.
    • Compared to the IOF suggestion: Keep the individual middle distance. No mixed relay.

Updated after original article published:

  • Estonia (see comment below)
    • Against new disciplines first-to-finish and mixed sprint relay until it is proved that it is better with respect tot he goals of the IOF. Must be better explained why. The idea of “forest WOC” and “sprint WOC” alternating is worth considering.
    • Compared to the IOF suggestion: Keep the individual middle distance. No mixed relay.
  • Orienteering USA (received by e-mail)
    • Summarized: In general they like IOF’s most recent proposal. Concerns about how regional spaces for the Long Final are to be determined. If an alternating year schedule of sprint-WOC then forest-WOC were proposed, Orienteering USA would also be happy with such a proposal.
    • Compared to the IOF suggestion: Generally happy with the suggested program, except for concern regarding the qualification for the long distance.
What now?

With the responses coming from the member federations so far, it looks improbable that the final proposal for a new WOC programme that the IOF Council will prepare will have the same main characteristics as the one presented in October/November last year. There will of course be responses from other federations as well, but it must be difficult to ignore the responses of the strong federations cited above who took 24 of the 24 medals at the World Championships in France last year (Note that the Swiss took 3 of these 24 medals – their position has not been fully confirmed as of now). Of these federations,

  • None are in favor of removing the individual start middle distance
  • None are in favor of the mixed relay
  • There is strong interest among these “medal countries” to look into changes of the WOC structure we have today with a WOC every year with the same WOC program

Changing the WOC structure from an annual event with the same program every year is a big choice to make – which requires a thorough analysis of all possible consequences. Time might be running out for making a qualified choice of this type already in Lausanne in July this year…

Update 20.01.2012 15:00: The IOF Council came to the same conclusion: It makes no sense to make a choice in Lausanne in July this year based on the feedback from the federations. But as Jørn Sundby comments on Twitter: – Then remains the question if NORD-countries will try to get enough country support for their propsal to the Congress.

WOC in the Future might still be an item on the agenda in Lausanne…

About Jan Kocbach

Jan Kocbach is the founder of WorldofO.com - taking care of everything from site development to writing articles, photography and analysis.

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9 comments

  1. Hasn’t the Russian Orieneering Federation posted any comments?

    • Maybe, but with no knowledge about Russian I have not been able to find anything. Please let me know if you find anything.

  2. What amazes and even scares me is the continued effort to include untested ideas directly into the WOC programme. That goes as well for the Council’s proposal with a sprint relay and middle chase as for the Nordic countries idea of knock-out sprint and splitting the the competition.

    Do we actually know of any similar solution made by any sports federation or alike where any similar solution would have been made? FIS has this habit of alternating distances between classic and skate, which to many is confusing enough.

    Any new event should be reasonably proven and validated before introduced into the WOC-programme. And this means they should have been tested with a startign field resembling the WOC, i.e. including the worlds 30 best orienteers. (I know the knock-out sprint has been tried twice as a part of the Nordic O-tour, but at least the first was a complete disaster as seen on television.)

    • I fully agree – anything which goes into the WOC program should be fully tested in advance. Regarding the proposal from the NORD-countries, I can’t read from their proposition if this is something they want to implement untested or if they rather want more time before the final decision is made?

      • Another quote according the Swiss Position also includes a mandatory testing on the Worldcup level before introduction to WOC:

        Stellungnahme zu IOF-Vernehmlassungen

        Im Zusammenhang mit den IOF-Bestrebungen bezüglich Ausbau und Änderung des WM-Programms hat der Zentralvorstand von den Positionen der Schweizer EliteläuferInnen Kenntnis genommen und die Stellungnahme in der IOF-Vernehmlassung beraten. Die Antwort von Swiss Orienteering, die an der nächsten ZV-Sitzung zu bereinigen ist, soll unter anderem folgende Aspekte und Aussagen enthalten: Ablehnende Haltung zur Mixed-Staffel, Abschaffung der Langdistanz-Qualifikation und dagegen mehr Teilnehmer im Langdistanz-Final (grössere Kontingente pro Land), Einführung neuer Formen erst nach zwei bis drei Jahren Tests im Weltcup, Vorbehalt gegenüber Ausbau des WM-Programms, da sich damit die Anforderungen an Veranstalter weiter erhöhen und sich der Kreis an potenziellen Organisatoren weiter verringert.
        src: http://www.swiss-orienteering.ch/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1501&Itemid=163

  3. Very nice to see that most nations have listened to their top athlets, and that the changes has been postponed until it has been tested.