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WOC of the future: What will it look like?


Significant changes will be introduced in the WOC program from 2014 – or even earlier – but the only thing which is certain is that more races will have a format in which the first runner to the finish is the winner. During the XXV IOF General Assembly held in conjunction with the WOC in Trondheim, Norway, the IOF presented a report on future directions for WOC – and the IOF Council will now continue to develop a detailed programme. The future WOC program should be important for all orienteers, because it will form orienteering as we see it as a sport.

After the first articles came out after the IOF General Assembly at orientering.no, orientering.se and later also at the IOF website, there have been a lot of speculations and discussions in the orienteering community about the future WOC program (see e.g. alternativet.nu, attackpoint.orgNopesport, OPN.no). The discussions are partly wild, and partly based on information which is not fully correct. In this article I will summarize the facts, and discuss possible realistic options based on discussions with people close to the matter. At the end of the article I’ll put up my wishes for the future WOC program – and open for discussion.

The facts

At the 2010 IOF General Assembly, the IOF Council presented a report (the content of which has not been published, being one of the reasons for all the speculations) made by a work group emanated from the results of the IOF project “Evaluation of Elite Events” (EEE), which was initiated following the 2008 IOF General Assembly. The topic of the report was the future direction of WOC for 2014 and beyond. This report was not provided for decision making, but to inform the federations of the work done and to get feedback for the continued work. The key points in the report are given at the IOF website,

  • The WOC programme should diversify
  • The WOC week should remain within 8 days
  • A new, mixed, relay should be introduced.

In addition to the Council’s report, the General Assembly agenda also included another item relating to the future WOC programme, namely Norway’s proposal to introduce a mass start and this proposal was decided for. Based on discussions I have had with people close to the process, even if the statement says “mass start”, it could instead be a “chasing start” if that format is better suited based on the considerations to be made.

The Council will now continue to develop a detailed program in the coming year, including in which format the mass start will be introduced. The future of the WOC program will then be decided during the WOC in 2011 in France.

I have received a copy of the report. A central point for  the report is that “events need to be made easier to understand and appreciated and more exciting to watch” in order to further raise the profile and visibility of orienteering and to “gather wider interest from “outsiders” and the larger sports community“. I have also discussed with people close to the process, and can thus elaborate further on the three key points from the report (see below).

Key point 1: The WOC programme should diversify

Behind this statement lies that individual start competitions must be complemented by race formats where first-to-finish is the winner. According to the report, “such development will introduce new challenges to a traditional concept and address the ambition to further raise the spectator and media values of WOC”.

This statement is based on the thought that first-to-finish race formats are easier to understand for the (non-orienteering) viewer, and may be made for interesting for TV.  Today one of four gold medals (i.e. 25% of the medals) is awarded in a race format where the first runner to the finish is the winner.  Based on my discussions with people close to the process – and on the report – there is little doubt that this percentage will be increased in the future WOC program.

My understanding is that there are currently three main ways to introduce first-to-finish winner disciplines,

  • A mass start – either replacing the long distance or as a new discipline. The length of the mass start  could be anything from 45 minutes to 90 minutes. If the winning time is significantly more than an hour, it would probably have to replace the long distance. The start field would have to be reduced significantly from the 100+ participants for each sex in the WOC, probably by some kind of qualification race (see discussion below regarding the length of WOC), as a smaller startfield (30-40 starters) gives less demands for the forking system. A forking system would have to (1) be able to split up runners to some extent and (2) be easily understandable by TV/spectator regarding which runners is in the lead – no easy task. Discussions I have had indicate that forked loops would maybe be a viable forking system, but the forked loops would have to be relatively short with a long unforked loop at the end of the race – TV typically starting the broadcast towards the end of the unforked loops
  • A chasing start. The most promising candidate for a chasing start might be to have a prologue of around 25 minutes in the morning (all 100+ runners in the same course), and a chasing start of 25-30 minutes based on the results of the prologue with the 30-40 best runners in the afternoon/evening (note that there might be time problems with a 2 minute start interval prologue in the morning for all runners in the same course). The prologue could also be used as a qualification race for the middle distance. A chasing start gives somewhat less demand regarding the forking system, and also gives several advantages for TV as there is (1) interesting TV pictures at the start and at each control for a longer time due to the spreading in the chasing start and (2) possible to use a less complicated forking system.One could also have a chasing start based on results from e.g. the middle distance final, but some do not like to award a gold medal and in addition have a big advantage towards another gold medal. A third option would be to replace the middle distance with a chasing start.
  • A KnockOut sprint – similar to the concept introduced in the Nordic Orienteering Tour in Stockholm this spring. With better TV coverage and possibly also with a very simple forking system, this concept could prove very interesting for TV. If a KnockOut sprint is introduced in the WOC program, it is probable that it would replace the sprint as we know it in the WOC program of today.

Based on my understanding, it is improbable that all three first-to-finish winner disciplines will be introduced into the WOC program, but there is a chance that either a mass start or a chasing start is introduced – in addition to replacing today’s sprint with a KnockOut sprint.

Key point 2: The WOC week should remain within 8 days

Based on the report, it is an absolute that the WOC week remains within 8 days, i.e. all finals and qualification races must be held within these 8 days – but the program regarding which day which discipline is organized will have to vary due to local conditions.

The report says nothing about the number of finals / medal disciplines to be included in the future WOC program, but it is my clear understanding that there will be maximum one extra set of gold medals awarded in the WOC week, i.e. maximum one extra final.

Also, it is my understanding that the interest of the smaller nations will be important in forming the future WOC program, i.e. there should probably not be less disciplines to run for runners who today are fighting for a place in the A-finals at WOC. Thus it is improbable that qualification races will be removed in order to use WRE-points or World Cup standings to qualify directly to WOC finals. On the contrary, it is more probable that one will introduce qualification races where all runners run the same course (like in the prologue for chasing start and KnockOut sprint described above) where all runners will get a WOC result in the end rather than only getting a qualification result.

Key point 3: A new, mixed, relay should be introduced

In the report, it is concluded that the relay format used at the World Games, consisting of mixed teams with two women and two men, should be part of the future WOC program. Based on both the report and discussions I have had, it seems clear that if the mixed relay is introduced, it will replace the WOC relay format of today, as there is only room for one team competition at WOC.

The reason for wanting to replace the relay competitions with a mixed relay seems to be based on (1) positive feedback from the IOC after World Games, (2) the format is believed to be TV/media friendly and (3) the mixed relay competition is said to be an advantage for the smaller nations who might not have a good team with 3 women / 3 men, but have better chances in a mixed relay with 2 women + 2 men.

Based on discussions I have had with people close to the TV production, there are three possibilities for the relay competition in the future,

  • Introduce the mixed relay (World Games type format or similar)
  • Keep todays relay format, but decrease the leg lengths to around 30 minutes for each leg (as in NOC relay last year)
  • Keep todays relay format with leg lengths as today

According to what I have been told, only the two first options are realistic alternatives, as the relay format of today with two long legs in the end is not deemed to be TV-friendly as the total time of the relay is too long. It thus seems like either the mixed relay as suggested in the report from the IOF Council or a shorter variant of today’s relay are the realistic options for the future. A change to a mixed relay format might be difficult to “sell” to the orienteering community which is generally quite conservative.

My personal opinions

Above I tried to give some objective insight into the probable future for the WOC program based on discussions with people close to the decision process – and based on the report from the IOF. I will now finish this article with my personal opinions about the WOC of the future – along with some discussions.

First a few words about orienteering as a TV sport based on experience from WOC 2010 in Trondheim – as this is also important for the discussion about the WOC program for the future. I had some interesting discussions with the NRK commentary for WOC 2010, Arild Andersen, who said that  he actually liked the long distance format best for TV, as there is time to explain the route choices and what is happening. However, if the start interval is increased to 3 minutes, the startfield would have to be reduced. The sprint did not work too well – as it was too hectic, and it was difficult to use the GPS tracking. The middle distance was also a bit hectic regarding the possibility to use the GPS tracking actively. Andersen was also a bit skeptical towards how it would be possible to make a mass start interesting TV.  As far as I could understand, you would have to have a lot of cameras to follow the runners in an acceptable part of the course – making it very costly. However, the idea of  a chasing start with a 25 minute prologue in the morning and a 30-35 minute chasing start in the afternoon was met with a very positive attitude by Andersen. I have also heard that NRK has got a lot of positive feedback for the use of GPS tracking in the WOC broadcasts – and I have also got very positive feedback from non-orienteers who I know who have watched part of the WOC broadcasts.

Down to my suggestions for the future WOC program:

  • Suggestion 1: Split the WOC into two parts – a “Sprint WOC” and a “Distance WOC” – each organized biennially
    As far as I am aware of, splitting the WOC into two parts has not been part of the discussions within the IOF. In my opinion, there are several advantages by splitting the WOC into two parts. (1) There will be room for both the traditional long distance and a mass start/chasing start event. (2) The mixed relay can be part of the Sprint WOC and one relay for each gender can be part of the “Distance WOC”. (3) 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 (4) The Sprint WOC will be easier to organize for less developed orienteering nations, making it easier to spread orienteering to new nations.

    I have discussed this suggestion (which is not originally mine) with some who have said that if one should do a splitting into two WOCs, they should both be organized every year. I would rather have them every second year, in order to get full focus on both WOCs by all runners – also from the less developed orienteering nations.

  • Suggestion 2: Keep the long distance as it is – change start interval to 2 minutes for first 25 starters
    The long distance discipline has excellent TV potential when the GPS tracking is further developed. A 3 minute start interval for all starters might be a challenge seen from a TV standpoint, but why not use a start interval of 2 minutes for the first 25-30 starters and 3 minutes start interval for the rest of the start field?
  • Suggestion 3: The  first-to-finish winner discipline to be introduced should be chasing start
    In my opinion, of the different options for a first-to-finish winner disciplines, the chasing start with a ~25 minute prologue in the morning and a ~25-30 minute chasing start in the afternoon/evening is the best option.
    It is easier to make to work for TV than the mass start, it is easier to make a forking system which works adequately, and it contains more of the real orienteering element than a mass start.
  • Suggestion 4:  Keep the separate gender relays
    I don’t like the idea of removing the separate gender relays. The only good way to introduce the mixed relay would – in my opinion – be to split the WOC in two parts as suggested above.
  • Suggestion 5:  Keep the middle distance as it is – or shorten its length down to 25-30 minutes
    Even if the feedback from Andersen was not entirely positive for the middle distance, it has been very tight and exciting the last years – and it should be possible to use the GPS tracking even better to show the excitement in a good way. It could be a possibility to shorten its length somewhat
  • Suggestion 6:  The sprint
    The KnockOut sprint is an interesting format, but it is not yet fully developed and ready for prime time. The ideal option would in my opinion to split the WOC in two parts, and have both a traditional sprint and a KnockOut-sprint. However, it this is not possible, I think there is not enough information yet to conclude.

Thanks for reading all the way through until the end. Please use the comments below to discuss my suggestions. I am very open for changing my opinions – the best way to develop the sport is through open discussions about the future, and getting out the opinions of both the elite and the rest of the orienteering community.

new initiatives in terms of competition models and discipline formats. Events need to become even
more attractive to follow, both live at the arena and through TV and web-cast media. To achieve
this, events need to be made easier to understand and appreciated and more exciting to watch.

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. Seems like you have got much of the same information as I have on the process before the decission and the way forward.

    One additional important point, as I understand it, is that more nations and runners should be part of the WOC and get a “valid” result. Today many nations are eliminated before the finals (in Ukraine also before the opening ceremony). Thus I believe several of the qualification races will have to go. These races are also uninteresting for media and the runners that plan to win. They are just a lot of extra work for the organisers and the teams.

  2. @BOM: Thanks for the confirmation. Regarding your additional point, I am aware of this, and I also tried to formulate it in my article:

    On the contrary, it is more probable that one will introduce qualification races where all runners run the same course (like in the prologue for chasing start and KnockOut sprint described above) where all runners will get a WOC result in the end rather than only getting a qualification result.

    But the wording was probably not clear enough:) These will not actually be qualification races then, but rather WOC races in which all runners get a result. The prologue for a chasing start and a KnockOut sprint are examples of such races.

  3. I think many of those people voting for a masstart do not fully realize how difficult it is to make a good TV out of it. Orienteering is not xc-skiing where skiers circulate on one 2,5km long loop or cycling where motorcycles and helicopters are used.

    I would like IOF to concentrate more om how to make orienteering more interesting for people watching it on TV and not so much for spectators in an arena. In Trondheim we could see that there were hardly any non-orienteers in Granåsen even if it was located close to the town.

    The WOC program is pretty tough with 7 races in 8 days. There are only few runners running all of them now. I guess that even some of the biggest o-stars are asking themselves whether it was a good idea to go for all races. We could see some very tired runners in the relay. If the WOC-program gets even tougher, more and more runners will have to skip some of the races and at the same time the value of the medals will continue to decrease.

    I probably have only a few years left before I “retire” from elite orienteering and I feel that if for example the traditional long distance will be taken out the WOC program or replaced by a masstart race, my motivation to continue to train hard for WOC might just not be there anymore.

  4. Good job summarizing the situation. My five cents:

    *I don’t understand the arguments behind the “decision” to introduce more races where the first to finish is the winner. In my opinion, all the individual finals of this year’s WOC were extremely exiting to the very end with some of the very best runners starting last. And I don’t think that potential TV viewers are idiots incapable of understanding individual starts. In my opinion, both mass and chase starts inevitably shifts the gravity of our sport in a for me unwanted direction from the “orienteering” part to the running part.

    *Introducing a mixed relay would countrary to the arguments provided result in fewer nations have a chance to fight for the medals. Russia and GB currently do not have women good enough and Denmark does not currently have men good enough to challenge the Nordics and Switzerland. The result would be less interesting relays.

    *The “problem” with runners from “smaller” O nations not getting “real” WOC results could in my eyes easily be solved by having everyone finishing 16th in a qualification race sharing the 46th spot, those finishing 17th sharing the 49th spot, etc.

  5. @Eva: Yes, I also think it is not easy to make good TV out of a mass start. And it will definitely be costly.

    I also hope there will be a lot of focus on further developing the TV concepts for the long distance as we have it today (and the other disciplines), but based on what I hear from people close to the decision makers, there seems to be no way around a mass/chasing start in addition to this.

    Based on the feedback I have heard from the WOC 2010 broadcasts – I think there is a lot of potential in further development of the current disciplines – and especially the long distance. The NRK broadcasts used a lot more GPS-tracking than the international broadcast – and often with fewer runners, replay of the same leg, etc. This got very good reception both internally at NRK and from the public.

    A TV workshop was planned ahead of WOC 2010 (with me as one of the organizers) which would look into developing TV concepts for orienteering. Unfortunately we did not get the required economical support from the IOF. There are plans to try to repeat this for 2011 – I hope there will be possibilities as I think there is a lot of unused potential here. BTW: 3D visualization was planned to be part of the project – but due to the lack of support I had to work on this on my own instead of in a project with support from IOF (now this is developed as 3DRerun, which was used in the broadcasts from WOC 2010 – with very good feedback from TV-people).

  6. Regarding your suggestion No.2 – making different start intervals for early and late starters, I think that would incorporate more unfairness in the race. There are still a lot of groups of runners forming in the WOC races, that would make those starting in a shortest interval to get better position by following some good runner who in qualification qualified only in 10-15th position. (So if you are caught by Hubmann who was 10th in qualification by 2 minutes and run till the end, you would be bettter placed, than someone whou would be caught by Gueorgiou (who has won his heat) by 3 minutes :)

  7. Jan – great article! Full of “real” facts and considered thought – thanks for clarifying what is a very emotional topic.

    One other “good idea” I’ve seen that is very appealing is to have some people qualify for finals based on Regional Championships. For example, one spot in each final might be awarded to the North American champion in each discipline. This makes the regional championships more exciting, and it also would help to build excitement for the WOC races with prequalification (like the soccer World Cup qualification tournaments).

  8. @Renars: Of course I am aware of that problem, but it is still better than using 2 minutes flat in all of the field as grouping in the start of the field is likely to influence less on the medals and top 6 than in the last part of the start field. If the alternative is to kill the long distance or have only 30 runners in the final, I still think it is better to have 2 minutes in the first part and 3 minutes in the last part. Always these compromises… From a fairness point of view using 4+ minutes flat through all of the start field would of course be better..

  9. @Adrian: Thanks for the input. I have seen the suggestions, but I am not sure it would benefit the less developed nations as it would also have to mean that there would be less interest for the less developed nations in the WOC week in the scenarious I can see.

  10. “grouping in the start of the field is likely to influence less on the medals and top 6 than in the last part of the start field..”

    Well this is not so straightforward, as, in my mind, in case if more finals are introduced, top runners more and more would run more relaxed in the qulification to save some more energy for the rest of the WOC week, and would more try to run just to qualify, not to win the heat. Of cource, knowing how fast is good enough just to qualify is not an easy thing to decide, but anyway, if really some extra distances would be introduced, runners should save as much energy as possible during the qualifcation races.

  11. Jan,

    Thank you so much for this analysis. I have read so much speculation on what the IOF actually recommended that it is great to see what is actually true.

    Your idea of the split biannual WOC, alternating between “sprint” and “distance” seems like the best possible idea to reach a compromise between the IOF’s desire for more TV exposure and our (the orienteers’) desire to keep orienteering as the sport we love, and not some gimmick with unnaturally short winning times and usage of worse terrain in favor of greater TV exposure.

    I completely agree with you that the mixed relay cannot and should not replace the current relay format, and would be a less competitive event than the relays we see today.

    Of course, after a certain point, the importance of winning a gold medal at WOC is going to drop even further as the number of disciplines increases without a corresponding growth in the number of competitors training hard to win that medal, so the IOF should really consider the appeal to current competitive orienteers before thinking about increasing TV viewership.

  12. It seems people are finally realising, although with a surprise, that sprint-orienteering does not work in television.

    A pequliar thing is that people seem to confuse mass-start with first-to-finish. Whereas I see some justification and interest in the latter, the first one is simply boring. There have only been a few attempts at mass-start races with most of the elite runners participating and I think you can argue they have all been disasters, but memory is short.

    You cannot draw on experiences from Blodslitet or national champs as the startig field will be so much tighter in a WOC race. The WOC relay is (in a good way) very different from any other relay, since it was slimmed down to three short legs. Likewise a WOC mass start will be very different from any other race, but unoftunately not in a good way. I wil become boring for as well runners as any audience.

  13. I was pretty appalled at some of these suggestions when reading, and then very glad to see that Jan agreed with me or offered a much better solution to the one I was thinking!

    The thing I feel most strongly about is the relay – there is just not the depth in women’s orienteering outside Scandinavia (even the Swiss struggled a bit this year) to merit a mixed relay.

    I think the suggestion of biennial switching of emphasis is really good, if this is the route the IOF are determined to take. Every other year we find the true King of the Forest, and the sprint WOC provides a great route for up and coming athletes to really mix in with the big guys, building confidence for the Classic WOC.

  14. Very interesting article, as well as comments. Good work, Jan. Every option for future seems feasible to me, with one exception – splitting WOC into sprint and classical parts every other year. I cannot recall any other sport, which is using such splitting, why Orienteering is supposed to make such a risky experiment? And what about the elite orienteers – this year i’ll train for sprint, next year – for long running?

  15. I cannot even begin to understand why anyone considers that a mass start event could possibly provide more drama and excitement than the format of all races this year.

    All you will get is occasional processions of runners in a limited area of forest ending with a sprint for the line after which it is over.

    Currently as the lesser lights swap the early lead the excitement builds and builds.

    Golf has that format and is MASSIVELY popular despite being very slow.

  16. It would be nice to have a ‘first to finish’ race but at the expense of no other races.
    The WOC is fine as it is. Sure, maybe add some events but do not take away from what is already perfect

  17. I think that the mix relay is a way too large step in the wrong direction. I don’t see the good argument for it. Is it thought that this shall replace the current gender separate relay?

    Mass start is also a large step in the wrong direction. It is not more exciting, and it is definitively an underestimation of the audiences ability to think. I think a lot of people understand individual start, and not always have to see “first finisher is winner”. Individual start is common in a lot of different competitions (rally, x-c skiing, slalom, time trial cycling etc).
    There is a lot more to be gained from good GPS tracking, and the showiing of different runners against one the others. With a good speaker and reporter, this has a lot more potential than what a mass start will bring. XC-skiing 50k has lost almost all of its attraction after it has been turned into a mass start. The excitement and that what makes a competition exciting is to follow the changes, the ups and downs, and the build up of excitement during the competion. When everybody runs more or less the same route, there will be far less excitement during the competion, and there will be long time passages were nearly nothing is happening. Only the sprint to the line will be interesting.
    I also think that the GPS tracking and the TV coverage has made the arena passages largely unnecessary. Especially when the terrain around the arena is so uninteresting as it was in Trondheim. These passages do steal way too much of the course length, and does not add that much excitement to the competition. The runners are also running in the same parts of the terrain over and over again, which must be fairly boring to the runners. O-festivalen 2008 (Siggerud) was an example of this. The runners ran through the same part of the forest too many times.

  18. I am completely mystified as to why IOF think that a first past the post system is needed for non-orienteers to understand what is going on – plenty of sports (including Olympic events) use the fastest starts last system, and it is one of the best ways to build up excitement and interest. As others have said, a mass start race would be really tedious or, worse, completely incomprehensible with multiple forking.
    If the IOF do insist on lumbering the sport with these variants, then your idea of biannual WOCs does make a lot of sense.
    I would be horrified to see gender relays being replaced by a mixed race – again others have identified the fact that it would be less not more competitive (and, from a non-orienteer spectator perspective, what other sports do this – virtually none – I wonder why?!).
    Watching this years WOC showed that the current programme and formats can be extremely exciting to watch – the tracking was particularly successful – and it’s there that IOF should be really focusing their efforts, not constantly fiddling around with formats and trying to make the sport somethign it isn’t.

  19. @ME(72169)
    you are right with “potential TV viewers are not idiots, incapable of understanding individual starts”. I think no more comments are necessary:-)
    what other sport presents yourself by mixed relay?…….

  20. As spectator and WOCTour runner I had a fantastic week.
    I even would have stayed at arena in bad weather… but the cheering crowd might have been smaller?

    My opinion (after returning to the real world with regular people) is Orienteering has big potential as TV sport (Tracking, Novikov reading map while jumping dead trees, .. ). It has low potential as stadium sport, probably even if there was a beer-tent.

    IOF should abandon the marked-route-through-arena convention, and focus on improving elements making exitement available through TV, and making TV-production from forest less costly. Some of the secretesse must be relaxed, itcan still be fair (equal for all).

  21. ME said “I don’t think that potential TV viewers are idiots incapable of understanding individual starts.”

    That’s as maybe. I think the evidence suggests that even if people aren’t idiots, they still don’t like watching timed-start events. Biathlon, for example, is a very exciting sport, but no-one watches it in Britain.

    The TV networks just don’t like broadcasting minority-interest sports and in order to get them to show orienteering an extremely dumbed-down version would have to be concocted. I don’t really think it’s worth the effort to second-guess them and the viewing public.

    Whether we like it or not, the only way more people will watch our sport is if more people participate, AND NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND. So we need to concentrate on putting our efforts into local clubs, especially in new countries, co-operating with other disciplines, and getting orienteering into the Olympics.

  22. A couple more points raised by reading the thread on Attackpoint. 1. Someone said “I’d like to see what IOF proposes and THEN start complaining and proposing alternative solutions” but this must be the wrong attitude. Everyone should speak up now, so that we know whether IOF ignores our opinions or not.

    2. Holger Hott made an excellent point back in 2002: “During the last few years a lot of changes have been made to the international elite event program. IOFs reason for all the changes is publicity. Have we seen any more publicity? I don`t think so.”

    3. We must resist the mass-start long-distance event. If this becomes our blue-riband event, countries will just send their best long-distance (non-orienteering) runners to WOC and tell them to “follow Hubmann”. What happens then? Do the real orienteers have to hide behind trees till the others get lost?

    4. One area where mass starts do work is in relays, and a WOC version of the Tiomila/Jukola would be a good addition to the programme, perhaps every two years.

  23. Experts do not decide the weather, happily, meteorologists only monitor and forecast.

    Some meaningful TV-exposure (like from WOC2010) will increase the general understanding of orienteering. I never played american football, and needed some explanation to be able to enjoy watching.

    A lot of elements are needed to make O an attractive sport in more countries, please do not narrow it down to search for only one solution.

  24. Jan Kocbach, Thanks! You can find very interesting article theme! I have some ideas!

    1)I Think mass starts not very good for our favorite sport. If we use mass start, orienteering stand the cross this map, but not the сheck of individual technics, tactics and physics. So First of all sportsmen will develop fast run, and we can have problems with a doping. We must based on our big traditions. what changes? May be relay(3 legs) – 30 minute winning time/leg, and Mass start in long distance this good forking system and some lengh courses(but I am not assured 100%).

    2) Two different WOC it is a big mistake. To train one year under one plan, and the next year on another it isn’t so useful. Sportsmen will be divided on two groups, as in ski cross-countries(sprinters and distance man). One sport-one WOC every year!

    3)What about TV rating??
    It is better to change the world.
    a) Сreate TV program : “orienteering lessons”.
    b) During competitions at stadium on a viewing point we can organize sector for mini-orienteering(“labyrinth”, “Orient-Show”). It is like sector for shooting in biathlon!
    c)During competition we can use the helicopter. He will catch runners on fields and roads!(Giro d’italia 2010 is very excellent!)
    d)We can invite sportsmen from other sports for advertising. Now we can see as in poker play football stars, etc. It is a good advertising. Imagine: “Ole Einar Bjørndalen has taken part in O-Ringen!!!”

    We can appreciate and love our orienteering!!!
    Thanks for attention!

  25. Thanks Jan, great article.

    We should be careful with WOC. I don’t want to see, in five or ten years, a collection of WOC “Long/Classic” winners with asterisks after their names because it was a mass-start with little orienteering. Respect the greats who have won in the past and will win in the future and remember what history and orienteering mean.

  26. The reason hardly anybody watches Biathlon in this country Adrian, is because hardly anybody does it or knows anything about it, and we’ve hardly anybody who is a medal contender. I’ll bet the mass start races at the Winter Olympics were no different in coverage, yet loads of people watched the Olympic downhill and skeleton, because there was something or somebody to relate to.
    What that shows, to me, is that the IOF are barking up completely the wrong tree with individual race mass starts – there are other factors that they need to consider that will define coverage or not, and it’s those they should be concentrating on.

  27. Wojciech Dwojak

    I supopose all actions IOF takes, are towards including Orienteering into Olympic Games.

    Mass Start, Mix Relay are the ways to make Orienteering readable, easy to understand. I don’t think that viewers are dumb, but I thnik viewers are lazy and they rather would like to watch first to finish battle like in Athletics or Formula 1 than wait for winner in interval start, even if it is more interesting. As long as Mass Start will be extra competition, no influence in current competition schedule, I see no problem.

    Well planed Mass Start course could be demanding and interesting, at least I believe so. If we take a look on WOC 2010 Middle, with rather easy course, but still the best to take medals, I am calm that it will be fair competition. Preparation is the key.

    In term of making Orienteering readable, two WOCs (sprint and distance) would be quiet confusing. Easy to understand for Orienteering people, but I think to difficult to understand for non-O.

    As long as I follow General Assembly proceeding. Mass Start in WOC is a fact and that this fact was voted by Associated Federations. If this is a fact this conversation lacks voices how to make Mass Start justice and interesting rather than complaining. If Associated Federations decided to include Mass Start, why we complain of IOF, we all are guilty ;)

    Thanks for having this possibility to write what I think.

  28. fromPlanetMars

    Call me oldfashioned, but what more does a WOC need than a long (with two qualifiactions races) and a relay?

    > give us back the real kings.
    > even the tv guys admit that all the so called spectator friendly fails against the good old long distance
    > do we really have to repeat all the mistakes the cross country skiing already made? [Booring Tour de Ski; Superbooring long distance with massstart just to find out, who is the best sprinter; Floods of World Champions every year, seven World Champs in a row with at least one changed discipline]

  29. Re: posting 72174

    Jan, could you give more explanation of why you think it is not such a good idea to have WOC final spot awarded to winner of regional championships? I can only see good things for countries like Canada – a fierce fight in North America with the USA (and Barbados?) to earn those spots, then great fun to cheer for these runners in the final. Also the runners will have some time to focus on this final race and so perhaps the results will be more competitive. Sounds like a good thing for orienteering in Canada.

  30. Who are even interested in these “made up” competitions as mass start. They can be interesting off season when you want to compete man to man. You may be tired and want the help from other competitors as for them giving you the speed. But I don´t think of them as a form of championship competitions. Maybe I´m too conservative, but the spirit of our sport goes missing in those changes. And do the competitors really want to compete that much as the IOF thinks it should be done? Eva wrote she wont. And many stars have protested with their feet against these new forms by not putting them in their schedules. Minna and Tero made it this year.

    Every year has 2 big comptetition weeks already and now they want even more to make orienteering more interesting. In the end it can be as for track and field which once were a public magnet and many people were watching at stadiums. Now with Golden league they can hardly fill the stadiums anymore at championships. Look at EM in Barcelona this year.

    And it may sound hard, but I don´t believe orienteering ever will get the attention of people outside our sport, with or without mass start.

  31. Many of us feel that 50 km X-cross country skiing with a mass start has become extremely boring. Why yawn 2 hours for a 10 seconds orgasm? A long one, if not so intense, feels much better. I think orienteering should avoid the same pitfall. What we have seen so clearly from the WOC2010’s TV coverage is that there is a great potential for orienteering in advancing the graphics inherent in the GPS tracking system. Anyone can understand the excitement of route choices, especially when runners are replayed against each other as in “parallell” slalom. I think IOF should establish a work group (including Jan Kocbach) looking into this instead of continuosly trying to invent all kinds of ephemeral competetion formats.

    And if the WOCs become bi-annual, the European championship and the other regional championships, should be held in the year between, as we may soon run out of such well-qualified and affluent organizers as those in Trondheim.

  32. Thanks for a very interesting article. I’m glad to see that the polls and most of the comments above reflect my view that the IOF proposals are generally not a positive development. Some should be dismissed out of hand, most notably the mixed relay. I can’t think of any other serious sport that would countenance such a thing.

    Of the proposed new formats, the one I could most live with would be some sort of chasing start, as in Jan’s suggestion 3. The Norway leg of the NRT seemed to work fairly well using a similar format. If a knockout sprint were adopted, then the Orientshow model is far preferable to the ungaffled mass starts used in the Swedish NRT race. Mass starts in general make terrible TV unless you have cameras covering more than 50% of the terrain, which is usually impractical. Splitting WOC as in suggestion 1 will probably lead to alternate ‘Real WOC’ and ‘Mickey Mouse WOC’ years.

    Beyond the immediate debate on specific formats, I’d ask how the IOF is working to ensure that a market will be there for them? What happens in 2014 when the organisers have put together the new WOC programme but the Italian TV stations decide they aren’t interested in orienteering anyway (as is quite likely)? If the IOF are changing the public face of the sport for the sake of TV coverage it should be their responsibility – not that of the WOC organisers – to guarantee coverage is there. There are probably no more than five countries where major TV stations are prepared to put sufficient investment into covering orienteering as to justify any change in the programme. Will WOC be restricted to those countries after 2015?

  33. Thanks for all input in the discussion. Due to vacation without Internet I’ve unfortunately not been able to join in on the discussion, but here is some input:

    1. I got some input via email that the focus regarding the future of orienteering are maybe a bit too much TV-centric, and not enough focused on the picture we want to show of orienteering as a sport in order to get young people interested in the sport. For example, I am told, the choice of Granåsen as arena for the finals at WOC were more from an arena view (spectators, sponsors etc.) than from a TV view.

    2. I’ve also been told via email that the most important thing with a mass start might be that it shortens down the event time, which is important from a TV viewpoint. The fact that the sprint did not work well from a TV standpoint at the WOC this year does not mean that the sprint is not the best discipline from a TV standpoint, only that the production was not ideal.

    3. Regarding splitting WOC and organizing every second year, there are lots of comments going both ways. I’m not sure what is the best choice, but I can see it as a solution to some of the “problems” while introducing others. Thanks to all for highlighting both the problems and the solutions by going in such a direction. And I’m also happy to see that there are quite a few people with me on such a potential decision, so maybe it might even be considered thoroughly?

    4. Regarding the comparison with XC-skiing for the mass-start format in your comments. I think it is possible to make orienteering with mass-start a lot more exciting than XC-skiing with mass-start thanks to the orienteering element which can make for big changes during the race – if GPS tracking is used in a good way and if a good forking method is found. Still, as I write in my article, I think chasing start is easier for production of good TV.

    5. Some answers to some of your comments:

    @J: About sprint-orienteering not fitting well for TV – see comment via email which I wrote about above. I agree with what was written there – that sprint may very well work well on TV with a good production, and maybe some adaption of the format.

    @Adrian Z
    > Jan, could you give more explanation of why you think it is not such
    > a good idea to have WOC final spot awarded to winner of regional
    > championships? I can only see good things for countries like Canada –
    > a fierce fight in North America with the USA (and Barbados?) to earn
    > those spots, then great fun to cheer for these runners in the final.
    You would have to give even more spots to the Nordic countries and other European countries I guess? I don’t think it would be possible to make it work in a good way – I think one would rather abandon the qualification races altogether, and use WRE points / regional championships for qualification – which would probably not be good for the “smaller” countries. I think a more probably outcome is that qualifications are replaced with races in which all runners start on the same course – all runners getting a result.

  34. The man-machine (ranked about 50th in Finland M21)

    Thank you Jan for a very interesting and carefully prepared article!

    I´d like to add some of my own thoughts. The idea of a biannual WOC might seem like a good idea at first but I think it would be bad for the orienteering sport. It would increase the amount of disciplines and the amount of medals in a situation where many people already think that there are too many international Championchips. The value of a WOC gold would decrease further by this kind of change.

    I listened to a finnish radioprogram where sportjournalists discussed orienteering and the two golds Minna Kauppi won in the WOC. Two of the three journalists said they couldn´t place Minnas gold, Tero Pitkämäkis EC bronze in Javelin and our olympic bronze in Snowboard in order of precedence. One reason was that orienteering is not an olympic sport and another where that both WOC and EOC is held every year. He compared orienteering to swimming where they have several international championchips every year (and many disciplines also). However I got the feeling that they thpught Pitkämäkis EC bronze was more worht than Minnas two gold.

    Further one of them said something like “if Niggli can win 17 golds what is really the value of one medal?”

    In my opinion WOC should be held only every second year and the number of disciplines should not be increased. It would raise the status of the sport and it would definately raise the status of the EOC (if it too where held every second year).

    As for the mixed relay. Isn´t that a concept used in biathlon?

    (The radio program in swedish available here: http://arenan.yle.fi/player/index.php?clip=1222401&language=sv)

  35. @Jan
    Thanks for the response. I’d like to reformulate my standpoint vis-a-vis sprint-o and TV.

    What your are saying, and I agree with you, is that in order to make orienteering succesful on TV you need a lot of cameras, GPS-tracking, a backroom staff to pick out the highligths, an insightful producer to show the highligths and a knowledgeable commentator to bring the excitement. This is true for every distance or concept, and I actually believe that the choice of distance or concept doesn’t make orienteering any better.

    When it comes to sprint, given the shorter running time, it suffers more from misshaps as with the infamous cable in Trondheim. Actually, i believe it is also more prone to misshaps, as it often invlves several stages, less time in preparations, public spaces etc. Given the shorter time constants, there is also less time to really pick out and show the decisive moments. Consequently, sprints tend to be confusing. And I’ve seen a few on TV.

    What you need and want to show on TV are the decisive moments. And here is the difficulty, as they can seldom be predicted. Who could dream of TG swallowing a bee or skipping a post or Sime taking the wrong turn in Stockholm. Consequently, we are as viewers robbed of the real drama. In a normal long or middle distance race, there tend to be time enough to pick out that information, but in sprints and first-to-finish races we have to go on with something completely different. I also remember from way back a televised mass-start race in Finland which Petteri Muukkonen decided with an early unorthodox route-choice crossing a still frozen marsh. No camera could have picked that out and gps could have shown it only afterwards.

    As I listed the elements of a good TV production, I know also what it takes. First of all money, as the cost of production really rise with the number of cameras, and there is really not much we can do there. There are anyway only a few races every year that can attract a large interest from broadcasters and the audience. Those being the WOC, Jukola and perhaps 10mila. Secondly we need experience, and here we can make an effort by doing an unbiased continuous evaluation of what has worked and has not worked, given the resources that has been available in the various try-outs that we have made. By developing our own understanding we can really help the broadcasters make the right choices and a good production. By changing our concepts we can not.

    All in all, I really wish we would concentrate on developing the elements of a good TV production rahter that continue to play around with concepts, which really is fighting the shadows, as the TV-companies really change their opinions and priorities from year to year.

  36. Regarding awarding spots in final as prize for Regional Champs…

    There are six IOF-sanctioned regional championships, and I suppose each would provide a prize of a final placing. One of these is available for each of Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Oceaiana (spelling??)

    The objection to this that I sense from Jan is (I am guessing) that better regions should have more places. But I disagree. The reason for this “prize” is not really for “fair play” but instead to promote elite orienteering around the world, and indirectly improve any chance of Olympics.

    Consider the current situation:

    Top Canadian orienteer must run in National Team selection race. Probably requires a trip of at least 2,000km and will not be a great race, since he will be in top three for sure and is only racing to “prove to the coach” that he should run in any WOC qualifiers that he wants.

    This runner then will also race against other North American orienteers in one or two “major” races. But it doesn’t really matter who wins – nothing is ‘on the line’.

    This runner goes to WOC and has his only “BIG” race of the year – the WOC qualification race. If he does really well he will be in the final. He will be congratulated by his team-mates and by the fans in Canada. He will then run the final – but this is just a reward really.

    The Canadian Federation goes to the national sport funding agency and applies to have funding for coaching program, but the funding agency looks at results and sees only two top-16 finishes in the last 40 years – they say “No”.

    Consider the alternative – that there is a reward of a WOC final position for the winner of the North American Regional Champs. Things get a whole lot better for elite orienteering in North America…

    Now, this runner has a major focus race – the Regional Champs. He will prepare carefully for this race, as will the ten other top races in North America. The race will be an exciting “high-stakes” race – something we currently don’t have in North America. This is good for increasing the level of elite orienteering to higher levels.

    If our man is the winner, then he will have a guaranteed place in the WOC final. This will become his big focus race and he will prepare extremely well for it. Perhaps increasing his chance of a top-16 finish. The fans in Canada will be excited about his preparations (and perhaps will benefit from more training, etc). He will run in the WOC final being properly prepared and highly motivated

    The COF will be able to go to the funding agency and have a long list of WOC finalists, some perhaps with top-16 finishes, and the funding people will perhaps give us some money for coaching manuals, maybe even a part-time national coach.

    The IOF will one day be asked to include orienteering in the Olympics. Voting delegates will look at World Champs finals and will see runners from their regions are taking part – they will like that.

    I think this is all a good thing. The only problem I see is that this takes 6 positions in the finals, so either only top 13 from each heat advance, or the finals are expanded to 51 people.

    That’s the angle from which I like the idea of awarding WOC final places to winners of all regional championships. Perhaps its not exactly “fair” for some european athletes but it is a big step toward improving elite orienteering around the world, which is a bigger consideration

  37. Many have discussed mass start in cross country skiing and said they are boring. In one of Swedens biggest papers his poisonous comment about them:

    Olympic winner Hellner Hellner saw his Olympic gold wing
    Published: SVD, August 26, 2010, 08:05. Last update: 26 August 2010, 10:46

    Ski hero Marcus Hellner skiathlon saws, one of the two arms of the cross-country, he won gold in Vancouver during the Olympics last winter.

    – They might as well remove it completely. I never liked skiathlon I change my mind and not just because I have won an Olympic gold, “he Norrländska Socialdemokraten.

    – Races are noisy and nothing happens until the last mile, “said Hellner.

    Apart from the Gällivare skiathlon skier also won gold with the Swedish relay team.

    Marcus Hellner also think it is sad that the mass start had a dominant position in the World Cup.

    – I may be stupid not to advocate mass start because I have done that good results there, but I must say what I feel. It was not the kind of skiing I started with as little. When I competed against the clock and did not have squeezed and squeezed, “he says.

    – It is sad that there are so few individual starts in the World Cup. It should always be made so many changes, but sometimes I actually think that it goes a bit too fast, “says Marcus Hellner.

  38. Knock-out sprint is better that modern sprint.
    Qualification Race (3-4 groups, 6-8 best of each to be qualified) in the morning, three semifinals for 24 best (2 loops one-man relay that gives their own sequence of controls for each one), 2 best from each race and 2 LL by time for final. Final – 8 runners, the same scheme as for semifinal.

    Sprint relay. 2 runners, 3 legs for each, total time – 40-45 min. Qualification based on individual sprint qualification – the sum of two best runners of the nation. Max – 15 teams for final.
    May be mixed sprint relay instead, then the qualification is based at the sum of best men and women result)

    No qualification for Long. A and B classes for Long. A is fighting for medals, B – for places (for the national teams, not personally for himself) in A-final for next year championship.
    Best 30 in A final keeps the places for their nations for next year, best 9 in B-final gains the places for next year, one personal place for reighning Long champion (above the nation quote). Nation quote for any competition (exept relays) – 4 runners for each qualification, also 4 runners for Long (A and B in total).
    May be mass start for Long in A class, no more than 40 runnres in A-final, may be even 30. But it is better to keep Long individual start.

    No mixed relays. 3 leg relay for 90-100 min in totlal.

    Middle. Qualification, next day Final in the morning and chasing start based on middle final resultsat the afternoon

    Total programme

    1 – model event sprint
    2 – sprint Q and sprint F
    3 – sprint relay
    4 – model middle/relay
    5 – middle Q
    6 – relay
    7 – middle F and chasing (two medal sets)
    8 – model long
    9 – long Final A and Long Qual B

    Sprint programme is separated, sprinters may go back after 3 days, less expences for teams

    6 medal sets in 6 competitive days

    4-5 first-at finish races of 6 (Long is in question, many people prefer to keep the classic form of Long – regarding the Long champion as a King (or Queen) of orienteering.

    Rest day before Middle/relay block and before Long final.

    Model events for each kind of map/terrain (4000, 10000 and 15000 scales)

  39. @j: I think we agree quite well, then – especially on the last part of your comment,

    All in all, I really wish we would concentrate on developing the elements of a good TV production rahter that continue to play around with concepts, which really is fighting the shadows, as the TV-companies really change their opinions and priorities from year to year.

    However, I still think that sprint has good TV potential – if one finds out how to get to it:)

    @Adrian Z: I think it would be very difficult to get such a scheme through, but I can see your points regarding how this would be good for the regional championships.

    @Merja: I fully agree with you about mass start in cross skiing. I was a big fan of 50km with individual start – would follow all the race – but have not much interest in the mass start. However, seems like FIS has a different opinion – and as far as I am aware the attitude is different in Middle Europe than in the Nordic countries. However, cross country skiing is a completely different discussion, and I don’t want to take that one here. For orienteering there are some other aspects, which in my opinion can actually make mass start more interesting for orienteering (but still see my view about mass start in the article above)

    @Alexander: I don’t think we will see two relays in the WOC based on discussions I have had. Also, I do not really think that the A/B-final arrangement you describe is a probably outcome. Both chasing start and middle final based on middle qualification might be a good option.

    @Man-machine: Regarding your opinion that WOC should be held only every second year, that has also been my opinion all along the way, but after discussions with several people close to the matter, I’ve learned that that is a very improbable outcome. A more probably outcome would be to do something about EOC/NOC, to have only one championship a year. The Nordic Orienteering Tour is also part of this equation.

    Regarding mixed relay – I think that in Biathlon they have both normal and mixed relay, and that the mixed relay has less “status”?

  40. Graham Gristwood

    WOC as it is every second year. No pandering

    World Cup in between years with whatever format you like – organisers can get the athletes to jump through hoops if it gets on TV.

    No more devaluing of medals, we have already gone from 2 medals every 2 years to 4 each year.

  41. It would be nice to have also a poll among all elite runners, coaches, officials which attended WOC 2010. Just to see their views about these questions. It shouldn’t be too difficult to get their respond.

    1. WOC every second year
    I think that majority of all orienteers think that WOC every second year is batter solution. At the end we might get more respect for gold medal and also more interest for world cup races. But in other hand we get even poorer IOF with officials who can’t get alternative canal to bring money in orienteering. We have WOC every year already 8 years in a row and still without any big IOF sponsor. Sponsors and media interest walk hand in hand but in our case we get sponsor and media support at WOC just because we have extremely good organizers. It is hard to accept that everybody or most of us (including fans) want WOC every second year and officials want to have it every year. I think somebody must tell them that they are not football officials and must stop thinking that they are something special because they run international sport organization. I really don’t like this approach where everything is so secret and then “famous group of people close to the matter” decide what should look like our development. If they can’t speak openly or make more wide discussion about different proposals that it shouldn’t be so difficult to make an official proposal from interested member federations. IF we really want WOC every second year somebody must start collecting official letters from members and deliver to IOF Council before they think that this is not very good solution. It is the best solution.

    2. One membership class
    As it is stated at IOF website
    “The rights of a provisional member are the same as those of a member except for the fact that a provisional member may not vote at the General Assembly, nor nominate candidates to Council. This means that all IOF member federations are from now on allowed to participate in all IOF Events, including the World Orienteering Championships.”

    IOF have now 71 member federations and at WOC 2010 we had runners from 42 member federations. Do we already have any information what kind of interest we have among those 29 member federation which might sent runners to WOC 2011? Can we expect 60-100 runners more? WOC q race for everybody will mean race for 160-200 runners on same course! Not fair at all. I am really looking forward what kind of q system proposals could be the best for all.

    3. Regional championships
    In global sports like football qualification system for World championships is based on quotas which are distributed among continents and not among countries. So if we want orienteering to be global sport something like this will happen one day in the future. We can’t have q race for 300 runners. As each continent get adequacy spots to it strength of member countries this could mean good solution also for Regional championships. This kind of system should also bring new WRanking sheme for national federations and runners.

  42. To Jan’s comment “A more probably outcome would be to do something about EOC/NOC, to have only one championship a year.” The Nordic countries have already decided to abandon the NOC. The last appointed organisers are for 2011 (but I’m not sure that they will organize it).

    I also believe it is highly improbable to go back to a biannual WOC. Particularly the East European federations want championships which makes it easier to fund their runners. There has been a big push to have annual EOC also.

  43. Hi Jan,

    Very nice piece like normal. In particular I thought the insight from the commentator was particularly useful. This makes complete sense to me that if the race is too short there is not the opportunity to communicate effectively what is going on. This assumes however that the broadcast would be live, and like so many sports, including those in the Olympics etc already, the broadcast is best presented as a package post event. In terms of a live event, I’m less convinced that any form of orienteering has any real appeal over a normal running event. Perhaps there is a little in a sprint sense, but I agree with you that a mass start, first across the line doesnt actually add anything to the event. The real issue is in the skill of the commentator.

    In terms of a packaged event, a first across the line format does not add any value for sure, if anything it detracts from the sport. Relating to your other points about biannual wocs, I have been for a long time an advocate to return to this format and have something different (such as the world cup, but perhaps alternative types of WOCs) in the other years.

    Great job Jan, keep up the great work, you are one reason why orienteering remains successful on the international scale.


  44. This isn´t straight about the subject, but still quite close: http://www.suunnistus.info/sf/browser/showdocs?cust=awsuunnistus&subdir=blog/woc2010middle

    The writer is one of Kalevan Rasti’s coaches.