While the IOF killed the WOC in the Future project in January, the Nordic Orienteering Federations believe that the WOC in the future project should be thoroughly evaluated and brought to a conclusion at the General Assembly in 2012. Consequently the Nordic Orienteering federations submitted a new proposal for a split WOC to the General Assembly at the last possible day – March 20th.
Update March 22nd 12:00: Switzerland and Italy have also submitted proposals for a new WOC program – see the details here. The Swiss proposal suggests to keep a yearly WOC week, but include a chase start event and get rid of the qualification races for long and middle. The Italian proposal suggests to get rid of qualification race for long, include a mixed relay. It also includes a specific form of spreading for the long distance.
The Nordic proposal is to organize a “Terrain” WOC and “Urban” WOC in alternating years.
- The terrain WOC would include the existing Middle, Long and Relay disciplines plus one additional “first-to-finish” discipline [Editors comment: Suggested to be 25 minutes prologue + 25 minute chasing start]. Qualifications for the middle and long distance races would be based upon some form of nation strength system. The new additional distance and relay would be open to equal participation for all nations.
- The urban WOC would include the existing individual start sprint discipline (with qualifications and final), a knock-out sprint discipline based upon the experience of the World Cup (NORT) and a sprint-relay. For the urban WOC, equal participation of all IOF nations for all distances will be possible.
You can read the complete proposal as submitted to the IOF here (English text) – for comparison here is the suggestion by SOFT last November – which is similar in most respects.
First “Terrain” WOC in 2016
It is proposed that the first “Terrain” WOC is organized at the latest in 2016 and the first “Urban” WOC 2017. Note that 2016 is the year Sweden will most probably be WOC organizer, whereas China may be a possible organizer for a sprint WOC in 2017.
Relating these goals to the current WOC format we do feel that it is appropriate to make changes to the current WOC program, as it is limiting in reaching these goals.
The proposal from the Nordic countries is very well built up – building the proposed program on a vision for the future WOC and a set of goals. This type of argument was missing in the original proposed WOC in the future program from the IOF – and it surely strengthens the chances for the program to succeed in getting support at the General Assembly in Switzerland in June.
Looking back to the World of O article on the topic from August 2010 where I argumented for a split WOC as a very good alternative compared to the IOF proposal, the NORD suggestion is nearly identical to the program suggested there. Repeating and expanding on some of the arguments from that article:
- There will be room for both the traditional long distance, the middle distance and a first-to-finish event.
- Both a KnockOut sprint, a traditional sprint (possibly also both city sprint and forest sprint) and a sprint relay can be introduced into the program – disciplines which are easier to master for the less developed orienteering nations
- The Sprint WOC will be easier to organize for less developed orienteering nations, making it easier to spread orienteering to new nations. An urban WOC program can be organized in many locations where it would be difficult to organize a terrain WOC and vice versa.
- A Sprint WOC could be one of the best roads towards the Olympic goal of the IOF.
I still believe a split WOC is clearly the only good option if the premise is that you need to introduce new disciplines in order to develop the sport in the right direction – which was an important premise in the WOC in the Future project. But:
- If you would take the “need” for new disciplines out of the equation, there are still several advantages with splitting the WOC – but the picture is less clear. It might however be quite plausible that a sprint WOC would attract more nations 10-15 years from now than a combined WOC would do with today’s program. And if this is the case, that should be an important reason to go for a split WOC..?
- The need for new disciplines is also a more difficult question to answer. The two new sprint disciplines (Sprint relay and KnockOut-sprint) will both potentially make it easier for developing orienteering nations to fight higher on the results lists – and the (short) chasing start might give excitement which can be beneficial for TV broadcasts in the future.
Seen from the smaller nations view, there is still a problem with the qualification scheme, though. This is also recognized in the suggested proposal, which states
We recognize that exact qualification rules need further development and feel that this can be achieved within a reasonable timeframe for a future WOC program. There seems to be agreement that qualifications races, as currently run at WOC, can be removed from the program. But none of the qualification methods presented so far have received broad agreement among member federations.
A result of the suggested program & qualification scheme for the Forest-WOC is, as far as I can see, that only around 12 countries will have a reason to have more than 1+1 runners present for more than the last weekend (which contains the chasing start and the relay). This can be seen as positive (lower cost for these nations, larger chance that they send a full 3+3 team for the last weekend), but would probably be seen more as negative by the smaller nations as it could reduce the value of the Forest-WOC for many of the smaller nations. For the majority of runners present at the Forest-WOC (assuming the same number of participants as today) there would now only be two races to start in.
The proposal by the Nordic countries however opens for more runners in the final by stating “Based upon feedback from TV producers we also feel that qualification rules can be quite generous as long as the use of seeded starting groups, with the best ranked runners starting at the end of the starting field, are established” – and there is also a proposal for a IOF working group, led by Council, to define exact qualification rules.
Conclusions & Your opinion
The conclusion: Splitting the WOC in two separate parts is a complex matter – and I feel that it has too many good sides to be dismissed without a being handled properly. I therefore welcome the proposal from the Nordic countries, and feel that the best way forward would be that an IOF working group should be formed to evaluate the consequences of a split WOC, to define the disciplines to be included, to define the qualification scheme and to define test events for the new suggested disciplines and put these test events on the international fixtures list.
What is your opinon? Do you welcome a split WOC model?
Read more about the proposed program in the links below.