Home / Orienteering News / – We need luck – and hard work!

– We need luck – and hard work!

Brian Porteous talks about TV, spreading of orienteering, WOC and WC in the future and the Olympics. Some hot news: It is likely that WOC qualifications will be canceled already in WOC in Italy in 2014 – and that also the mixed relay will be introduced from then on. Read on for a full interview with the new IOF President.

This interview has been made by Lenka Klimplova for the Czech O-Magazine. The Czech O-Magazine and Klimplova have kindly given permission to publish the interview here at WorldofO.com. The interview is made just a day after Porteous had been elected a new IOF President by the General Assembly in Lausanne. A few questions from the original interview have been omitted in the below reproduction. The interview will appear in the Czech O-Magazine issue to be published on August 17th 2012. You can read another interview with Porteous in the latest issue of “Inside Orienteering”, the publication of the IOF.

How was the first IOF Council meeting under your presidency today?

It was very good. We have a good team, really good team. We just had some general discussions. We are going to work slightly differently. All the Council members have to work really hard on the Council and take responsibilities, so they are thinking what they want to do. And at our next meeting in Italy in October we will put all the plans together.

(The interview continues below the picture)
IOF President Brian Porteous

IOF President Brian Porteous. Photo: Erik Borg

Actually, what was your motivation to be a candidate for the IOF president?

I am absolutely passionate about spreading the sport around the world

Good question (smile). I think, firstly, this is my sport. I’ve been involved in this sport since 1968, it’s a long time. And I have been involved in every job, as we all are in orienteering, we do every job. For instance, this year I controlled the Scottish sprint championships. And I have also really enjoyed my involvement in IOF, and I am absolutely passionate about spreading the sport around the world. I think we have a chance just now to take a big step forward – television and maybe I will not live long enough to see us at the Olympic Games, but I would still like us to be on that journey.

You have touched many points which I want to ask more about. Firstly, spreading orienteering. What other countries do you think IOF can spread orienteering to?

Well, let’s talk just about continents. South America is a big growth area for us and the Spanish Federation is now doing work in many new countries and some existing countries there. So South America is a big opportunity, and the World Games going to Columbia next year, that’s important too, I think. Then Asia – all parts of Asia. We have members who had been involved in the past – Singapore, Malaysia, and so on who are not active now. We need to get more activity in these countries.

Luxembourg has some beautiful forests

And then Europe – there are still one or two countries who are not members – Albania, perhaps Luxembourg. Luxembourg has some beautiful forests. Vatican city, Andorra, Monaco (smile). But seriously, there are countries even in Europe that can have orienteering – and the work that the South East Europe Working Group, led by Serbia, is doing is a really important example of regional development work. That kind of development – smaller, sub-regional groups working with new countries – is a really good model for development when there are not big distances involved.

(The interview continues below the illustration)
Illustration: Orienteering map from Luxembourg from omaps.worldofo.com

Another topic: the IOF Secretariat. The Secretariat has been seated in Helsinki since 1990s. Are you planning any changes?

No changes. We decided that the Secretariat will be based in Helsinki for next two years. There are some major advantages in being there because the Finnish Sports Confederation provides a lot of assistance, not least with the accommodation so there are some real advantages. The Council has no plans to change at present.

What about the “WOC in the Future”? What proposal were you in favour for at the IOF General Assembly?

It would be better to take changes in partnership with television

Well, what I have to say is that was a good discussion yesterday and it showed how the democracy in IOF can work. It is very simple – the Council’s job now is to implement what the General Assembly has told us to do. One big project which I will lead in IOF in next two years will be TV. We need to develop the TV product and have it broadcast more widely. That may well mean us coming back to some of these issues again. I would not have a problem with the Nordic proposal (to organize a “Terrain” WOC and “Urban” WOC in alternating years), my only problem with such a radical change was that it was too much change at the time when we are trying to take a major television step forward. It would be better to take changes in partnership with television rather than to try to sell a changing product now.

So you can see the split of championships into urban one and terrain one in future…

I didn’t say that. What I said was that it may happen but there could be other changes considered. I wouldn’t say we would go this route or that route, I think we just need to be much more sensitive to the importance of the television objective. That’s how we can go from being a secret sport to be something that people know, visible throughout the world.

Qualifications for middle and long have been cancelled for next WOCs…

So in Italy in 2014 […]  it is likely that we will cancel the qualifications and we will introduce, with their agreement, the mixed relay

… I can give you some hot news (smile). At the Council meeting this morning we agreed that we would move forward as fast as we can. Programme for the WOC 2013 in Finland is set, so there is no change, and television in Finland is also set. So in Italy in 2014 – in discussion with the Italian federation – it is likely that we will cancel the qualifications and we will introduce, with their agreement, the mixed relay.

We have asked the Foot‑O Commission to come up with the first suggestions how we change the qualification so we can go ahead as fast as we can. Some principles about qualification were agreed yesterday at the General Assembly. The main principle is one place for every nation – that’s a big step forward! And then, we will not use the World Rankings because that’s too difficult for out of Europe countries.

The next one is to look at performance in the previous world championships, but we haven’t confirmed the details of that, so we need to do that in more detail urgently. We have to have a system that does not make it too difficult for countries and individuals who are improving to get into world championships. There was a lot of work done by the working group for “WOC in the Future” which will inform the Foot-O Commission’s work so we hope by the end of this year to be able to consult on a model for Italy and Great Britain.

(The interview continues below the picture)
IOF General Assembly

Soon there are the Olympic Games. What are you going to do during the Olympic Games? Are you going to be in London?

Yes, I will be there for a short time. All international federations’ presidents are invited. One of my sons got tickets in British Olympic Lottery for 200 m men’s final and he is taking his old father with him, so I will be there watching Usain Bolt (smile). I will also be continuing to build up my network within world sports bodies like the IOC.

What real chances does orienteering have to get on the programme of the Olympic Games? But I wouldn’t like to hear any political answer…

I hope to live long enough to see orienteering at the Olympic Games

(smile) I gave you an answer earlier. I hope to live long enough to see orienteering at the Olympic Games. (smile) We know the formal position that we will not be at the Sochi Games at the Winter Olympics 2014 and the programme is closed for the Summer Games. This is a long-term ambition, however, we have heard this week some small words about the winter programme and we now have a target to look at Winter Games in 2022. We cannot yet be too optimistic but there is a school of thought that says the Winter Games programme is too small. The way it works that the sports that are in the Games get large amount of money and adding new sports means they get less. So it is not an easy route to get in.

The Olympic Games is another area of work I will be concentrating on. There is a congress of the Olympic family called Sport Accord in Saint Petersburg next May and that gives us a target to start to build a campaign behind Ski-O for a future winter games. Foot-O is more difficult. You know rugby and golf – big, well-funded sports – are coming in in Rio in 2016. We must ultimately aim to be part of the summer games too but to do that we will need to be much more visible in more countries around the world. In London, the 26 sports share a pot of money that is a minimum of 375 million USD. Would I like some money from that in orienteering? Of course!

Now some questions about the World Cup. What sense do you see in the World Cup? And do you plan any changes in the WC structure?

We might see some programme changes but it will be driven by the money being there for us to do that

Not at the moment. The World Cup structure is set, and clearly we are pleased that we are going have, for instance, the World Cup outside Europe, in the New Zealand in January. That’s good. It’s back to the answer I gave you about television earlier on and changing the WOC programme – we might see some programme changes but it will be driven by the money being there for us to do that.

I want to see us as ultimately having a sort of television technical model that we can plug into a World Cup race anywhere where the costs are reduced for host federations, and yet we get the quality of the programming. So it’s linked, it’s all joined up with the television bit. It would be great to have winter and summer World Cups in Foot-O and Ski-O, in longer term in MTBO as well, being televised. But that’s very much a long term ambition. I think we can get there. The critical thing is to step onto bigger broadcast platform with really good television coverage like there was in the Czech Republic or Norway. We need to take that step but we need consistent quality.

But what about flexibility of choosing World Cup organizers? I heard some rumours that if a federation wants to organize a World Cup race in 2 years, it is not possible because the programme is set up for few years ahead…

I think the problem at the moment is just the programme has to be planned few steps ahead, so short time changes are more difficult.

If you look on cross-country skiing, they plan the WC programme for next season in March. Why is it not possible in orienteering to be more flexible?

It is easy in cross-country skiing – there is a lot of money in the sport, so the federations have the resources behind the teams. We don’t have that. Our teams have to plan much more carefully about how they use their money in the World Cup and World Games, and that’s why we need to plan a bit more ahead. Again as I said, I can see this changing but changing with a step forward on television and sponsorship.

You said it was about money – but if a sponsor is willing to pay costs for runners to participate in an added World Cup race, why couldn’t it be implemented?

Yes, we never close doors on listening to good suggestions but I am still keen that we should have a pretty clear programme set up in as well advance as we can at this point.

What does  “well in advance” mean?

I still think we should know in one World Cup year what the next World Cup year should look like. You know we have a four year cycle for world championships which is necessary because of the work involved. You can imagine a very different structure if we had a consistent platform like Eurosport but we are still a long way away from that.

You have mentioned TV many times in this interview. And my question is there are IOF advisors/controllers, but there is no controller over the quality of TV broadcasting. What are your plans in this field?

So we now have to get that project together and we have to find the means of controlling the quality

Yes, we are looking at that. We have a short-term working group of the key countries like the Czech Republic, Norway, Finland and Sweden. We’ve been working informally and the Council has now agreed to formalize that and set a working group to work for a year. We have time now because we know that at the World Championships next year we will have quality television from Finland.

We don’t know yet if we will get quality television in the way we want it from Italy or from the Great Britain. They are willing to do what they need to do but they need our help. So we now have to get that project together and we have to find the means of controlling the quality. We haven’t worked out exactly how to do it yet – that’s the role of the working group. We have been listening very carefully to Karel’s comments (Karel Jonák is the Czech TV producer and director who is one of the leading persons in televising orienteering) – he came to speak to the IOF Commissions and the Council in January. This is now an urgent and important project.

And the last question about money. Do you think there will be a decrease of sanction fees for organizers of IOF competitions in near future?

There is two ways to answer that question – yes and no, or maybe – so three ways (smile).  My objective is to make it easier for countries to host big events – so the answer is fundamentally yes, but we can’t do it now, otherwise nothing will happen as we have no other sources of income for the sport. I think we should try to make it cheaper to organise major events– for example, we should try to get to the point where we can bring the television and technical logistics to host federations. Britain, for example, has put a significant budget for TV into the plans for World Championships in 2015. If we could take that out centrally because we have the sponsorship centrally to do it, then it would be a major step forwards. But these things are tied up.

A lot of cities around the world now have big event corporations with money to put into hosting sports events. I wouldn’t want just to make it cheaper and then to lose the opportunity for countries to get money from their own national structures. I would prefer us to be taking out some of the costs like television and dealing with these through centrally organised sponsorship. That is how a number of other sports work – the World Curling Federation which I know very well has that structure – they bring the TV production team. You could see that working in orienteering. It’s not easy to get to that point because we need to have some luck in getting a big sponsor that would have European-wide or world-wide view but we’re working on it – and I am always optimistic. The model is quite simple – if you look at Viessmann in biathlon for instance. As I said about the Olympics, it is wrong to be over-optimistic at this stage but we know what we have to do.

We need to work hard and we need a bit of luck too. I have worked a lot in sponsorship in my jobs in sports, and I will always remember when I was setting up the Glasgow marathon in 1982. I was struggling to get the money to fund it. I was working at the office and suddenly somebody called us from the cereal manufacturing and said “We are looking for something to sponsor”. I said “how much money?” – “25 thousand pounds” – I said “how about the marathon?” – They said “ok, we will do that” (smile). That’s it! We need luck in addition to our hard work!


Brian Porteous

• In the sport of orienteering since 1968

• Founding member of three orienteering clubs

• Professional Officer – British Orienteering Federation (1976-1979)

• Member IOF Promotions Committee (1977-79)

• One of the Founders of the Scottish Six Day Event (1977)

• Grade A National Controller for BOF since 1976

• President Scottish Orienteering (1997-2000)

• Chair IOF Foot-O Commission (2002- 2004)

• IOF Council Member (2004-2008)

• IOF Vice President (2008-2012) responsible for Regional Development

Career outside orienteering:

• Director of  Operations for the Scottish Sports Council, the national sports development agency for Scotland (1979-1994)

• Depute Director for Parks and Recreation and then Sport and Culture for Glasgow City Council (1994-2001)

• Director of Genesis Consulting – a major Management Consultancy working in sport and culture with major national and international federations, national sports confederations and with local authoritiesplanning major sports projects and strategies (2001-2009)

• Director of Porteous Leisure – continuing to work on major national sports projects (2010- )

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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  1. Bernt O. Myrvold

    I am a little surprised that the interviewer seems to think that the major IOF events are fixed too far in advance. My major problem when I was working with the fixture list for the Norwegioan Federation was that the IOF never weas able to fix the dates for their WOC and WC races four years in advance.
    These dates determines when we need the national selection races, and also limits the dates for national championships, which again directs much of the rest of the fixture list.
    My ideal planning frame would be IOF fixes organisers and dates four years a head.
    The national federations can fix their championships three years in advance.
    Other major events are fixed two years in advance.
    Minor events fill in all the gaps the last year.

    • That’s a question of practise in every country. In the Czech Republic there is a selection of national competition organizers 2 years ahead, it means a 2014 calendar will be known this fall (2012). And it seems to be sufficient.
      If a country wanted to organize a WC race in 2015, it had to apply before the end 2011. There was a case this year that one o-federation in Central Europe found a big sponsor who was willing to pay costs of WC in sprint in 2015. It was suggested this race could be added to the WC 2015 programme for instance before the final series in Switzerland (runners would just make a stop on their way to SUI, a stop paid by the sponsor). But there was no chance to add this race to the WC programme since the late application (spring 2012). The question is: are we striving for promoting of orienteering into other countries/regions and getting money in, or is it more important to rigidly follow long-term deadlines?
      The Czech view is that the WC calendar should be flexible until 2 years before the particular WC season (i.e. some changes can be made in the 2014 WC calendar by the end of this year), and after that the calendar should stay fixed. Unfortunately, the practise is different – on one side it is not allowed to add a race for 2015, on the other side the date of NORT 2013 has been changed this spring (just a year before!). Is that ok?

  2. “one place for every nation… We have to have a system that does not make it too difficult for countries and individuals who are improving to get into world championships. ”

    How does limiting entrance to the World Champs to ONE representative make it less difficult for improving countries to get into the world championships? A country may send an all-star year after year, but no other athletes will have a chance to get developed. This sounds like a step backwards for developing orienteering.

  3. Alistair Landels (NZ)

    We had a system with nations-places for WOC until 1993 (I think the long in USA was the last) which got dropped. I don’t know specifically why, but the qualification seems to have been a better and FAIRER system for finding the best athletes on the day in the specific terrain of WOC in any given year. Whatever magical numerical system the IOF will find, it will never be FAIRER than a qualification race.

    The IOF talk all the time about getting into the Olympics and yet now they make two steps away from the Olympic model, firstly by dropping qualification races which are a fundamental part of the Olympics, and secondly by introducing a mixed relay which is a relatively unproven discipline (are there any mixed competitions apart from mixed Tennis doubles?).

    Apart from the obvious point mentioned by RJ above, I wonder whether the IOF have thought about the impact on the relay. If many countries only have one or two places in finals they will be reluctant to send extra runners just to run the relay(s). Knowing you may have a chance of qualifying for a final is very important for developing and smaller countries, and every year there are surprises in the finals. I’m sure there will be a significant drop in relay participation if the IOF go ahead with this and thus are shooting themselves in the foot as the relay participation numbers are one of the things the IOC will look at when considering how global orienteering is.

    Rather than just dumping the qualification races I don’t understand why the IOF don’t try and find a better program model for WOC week so that qualification races don’t take up so much of the time. There is no reason that the WOC week has to have rest days for example. The only race which physically impairs athletes is the long final which could be on the last day (Like Cross-country Skiing which has the 50km on the last day). All the other races can be scheduled in whatever order, orienteers are used to running multi-day competitions so the other 6-7 races (Long Q, Middle Q/F, Sprint Q/F, Relay, and dare I say Mixed relay!) could be arranged in any way.

    I monitored the IOF congress remotely this year and got the impression that the delegates didn’t understand what they were voting for when they accepted the IOFs proposal to drop the qualification races. The way the vote was presented was either the IOF model, or the Nordic proposal to split WOC into two parts (sprint & forest…), the third alternative of keeping the current system was never considered.

    The athletes rallied against the IOF’s proposed changes last year, I hope they do it again this year with regard to this. Why change something when it’s not broken!

  4. Re Alistair’s comments:

    The easiest solution is to do the same as in JWOC where the long distance does not require qualification, it just takes all day.

    In order to make it possible to have an interesting TV production you then need some kind of ranking system, so that the best athletes start near the end of the field.

    If you have a 2-runner limit for countries with low ranking, 3 for the big ones, it would still be possible for an up&coming runner from a country like NZ to grab that second spot even if an old/experienced guy always gets the first spot.

    The maximum number of competitors would be about 150 (73 member nations) or 130 if the 21 provisional members only get to send one runner.

    With 2 minute start intervals we’re talking about a 4-5 hour start list, but just like today only those starting during the last hour or two have a real chance of a podium placement.

  5. “…step onto bigger broadcast platform…”
    Nice that someone thing big. But reality is that IOF is still waiting a $$$ call to finance at least a new webpage. Can we do it without a call?

    “But these things are tied up.”
    How about making a 10-20.000 EUR public call to get this done. We need at least 1 step forward also in this erea – multimedia. Is it relly so hard to think about similar layout – http://www.triathlon.org/

    Where on IOF page sponsors can see TV clip from this year WOC, athletes info,…? One suggestion: Leave promotion and sponsorships out of IOF Secretariat task list and form a separete working group. Todays demands from sponsors are very, very different than those which “have money” 30 years back. Olympic sponsorships programme from 80’s is not working today.

    So So boring. I’m tired about IOF talking about TV. TV is everything.
    And the best argument: Urban/terrain why not ? “We don’t like to broke our product and sale it again for broadcast companies.”
    What product ? It’s almost every time new sport for those companies, because most of WOC/WC countries as ever showed orienteering in TV (and never will do it). There has been some excellent TV broadcasts year after year even IOF has changed format and direction has been totally lost. I’m envious for many sports. They are broud what they are doing and only try to find more methods to show/tell to us (amateur in that sports) which is the idea of that sport. Not change it. We are making O4Dummies. When I understand more about some new sport, then it’s maybe more interesting.

    Have you ever looked example Jukola relay TV broadcast ? There we can get TV picture middle of night, far away from any roads, … so on. Give excellent picture of our challenging sport. You like it or not.

    Our forest orienteering include lot of values which are ranked very high. If we have created packet where we have collected some slices ex. WC+WOC from Czech, 10mila, Jukola, some other WOC’s ex. women relay 2011 and so on. Then it’s easy to see, WOC format is not reason why not in TV. Reason is simple – we are amateur salesman to sell our full dramatic sports for TV companies. They can’t say how we have to develop our sports. In our sports have many persons in many coutries who has found the methods to create good TV broadcast. And 1st country need enough orienteers, after that orienteering get maybe TV time. We have tools for drama: nice terrains, GPS-tools, new transfer methods, head cameras, … pro directors, … problem is not start interval, problem is not the length competition (except sprint), problem is our skills to show it.

    Our sport will be never top ten sport in the TV. We must look our sport without O-glasses. Ex. I’ll never look cricket TV broadcast even they change it: playing top of some huge house without clothes and some player will drop down. I’m not interested about cricket. That was only example. There is so many sports which are not interesting for me. And will not. They not include those functions which are interesting for me. Orienteering belongs those sports, which will be interesting for only some part of persons. Why it’s so difficult to accept ? We are destroying our foot orienteering and our values. IOF WOC shaking has been the best killer. Mixed relay has been the greatest killer idea for atheletics. Even most of the 200 best orienteers said 2011 that IOF ideas are so bad, how IOF answer ? They founded a person who has accepted those ideas and publish it like the most orienteers like to jump from challenging terrain to the middle of street.

    Long distance has killed. 1st in the queue was NOC. What is NORT today – joke for so many athletics, less orienteering – more running with numbers in well known backyards like Holmenkollen.
    So many orienteers are so tired. Too many orienteers are happy about that career is almost over. After that they can select where they continue terrain orienteering. Sad.

    Why so many think day after day that IOF not understand what is foot orienteering on the top level? Why ?
    I’m worried about our athletics. How they can keep the motivation if WOC+WC will not test skills enough and terrains are not challenging. Most of the athletics have selected foot orienteering in the challenging terrain. It’s the biggest pleasure for most of the orienteers.

    I’m happy, I can select where I’ll do my hoppy. Ex. Ausfjord (Norway), WOC 2011, or to be training planner in the http://www.suunnistus.info/map/tahkovaara_peravaara.gif, and so on. Heavens for orienteers. Reason to select this hoppy.

    Athletics, even your previous year manifesto didn’t get positive feedback from IOF, continue it. You do lot of hours to enjoy this hoppy and WOC is the crown for the training period. Say your opinion, we try to arrange challenging orienteering WOC for you. Reason to do heavy trainings day after day. WOC is 4u.

  7. With more than 100 runners in a competition, the race will not be fair anymore.

    • torben, of course it won’t be fair for everyone!

      Just like slalom competitions where those who start far back have horrible conditions, the people starting near the front of a 120-person start field will have to break trail for those starting later.

      This is the reason the starting order must be based on some form of ranking, so that all the potential podium finishers get more or less the same conditions.

      The key idea is simply to allow a lot more countries to send their athletes to WOC, and still avoid the need for a qualification race.

  8. As a orienteerer I think everybody who is doing orienteering is because they like this sport, we don’t care about the repercussion of a world champs. Of course we want to show the world our sport and give the chance to do it (and get into olympic games).
    But, in my opinion, change the sport seems crasy when, what we should do is look for the best way to put the TV in the forest. If you change the sport you will not show the world our sport, you will show something else.

  9. I’m very disappointed by the interview with the new IOF-chair. A lot of words about economy, TV and Olympics (because it gives more money)

    Not a word on the quality of orienteering that makes this sport so special, and which we should fight to keep.

    Hope I’m wrong but this sounds more like a career politician then a person who understand the essence of our sport.

  10. @Landels: I think your point that the removal of the qualification races (giving only 1 starter in middle/long for many countries) can have impact on the number of teams who will send a full relay team (of forest orienteers) is a very valid one. Also, I think that this can have impact on the number of runners from “smaller nations” training hard for forest orienteering – as the chance to represent their country on WOC level in the forest will be reduced significantly. I have talked to some who consider finishing their top level career after WOC in Finland if new rules are introduced from Italy in 2014 (as it will probably be very difficult to qualify for the forest races then).

    @Ivj: Please remember that the president answers the questions he is asked – and thus this has impact on the topics touched.

  11. Are there any women on the IOF???

  12. These guys are praying “Olympics, Olympics, Olympics…”
    But what they really do about it? Sochi was a real chance for them. Russian olympic committee promised to win these games, so any possible gold is counting. So they only really needed to explain to mr. Zhukov that it will be a gold for Russia, but not for Canada, Germany or US. After it all the rules and claims do not matter, since Russia used to solve problems on the base of money but not rules.

    Well, of course it is also the fail of mr. Beliaev and his friend mr. Elizarov (ROF bosses). But they are hopeless and busy with other things. However, have you heard anything about IOF activity in this direction? I’m not sure if they know who is mr. Zhukov…

    And who is next? Korea is definitely not interested. After they may hope for Finland or Sweden, but I’m not sure…

  13. Zbigniew Malinowski

    I’m really surprised we are still talking of TV-oriented sport while it should be already obvious, after 20 years of failures, that orienteering IS NOT A TV SPORT and it will never be. Moreover we are still talking about it while TV is becoming obsolete. Instead of wide-spread TV transmissions we are going to have narrow directed specialized Internet transmissions. Narrow means “directed to those who care” and it could be worldwide trasnsmitted in the same time.
    Anyone who saw EOC transmissions this spring knows that even in swedish it was very interesting (for orienteers) and should we do it in english or multi-language we could get much more commercial funding. Companies prefer to have very well defined audience and they are ready to pay more par one viewer.

    And olympics… let’s forget it. We’ll never have stars like Michael Phelps. Anyone is bothering about Modern Pentathlon olympics medalists? Who knows gold medalists in Archery by heart? But, on the other hand, someone remembers doping cases in olympics? I do… Let’s be different. Let’s be better.