Thursday, February 02, 2012

Portugal O' Meeting 2012: IOF Event Adviser Luís Santos's preview

For the second year in a row, Luis Santos is the IOF Event Adviser of the most important regular event of Foot Orienteering in Portugal. To Portuguese Orienteering Blog he talked about is work besides the organizing team of POM 2012 and ensured that the event has potential to be the best Portugal O’ Meeting ever.

You have been related to three out of the latest five Portugal’O’Meeting editions. I would like you to tell me about those experiences and to establish comparisons between them.

Luís Santos (L.S.) - Despite the huge loads of work connected to these events, they are very special for us and we all know that they are our best “door” to spread the news about the high quality of Portuguese major events among the International Community of Orienteering, so for me it’s a pleasure to be a part of the organizing teams of 2007 (São Pedro do Sul), 2009 (Mora) and 2011 (Alto Alentejo) editions of POM. Although we are talking always of POM, they have all been very different but fully lived experiences. In Orienteering, each event is a singular and unique project and that is a fact for participants and for organizers. I’ll try to resume in a few words my experiences in each of them.

2007, in São Pedro do Sul, brought me amazing terrains and a map that has became one of my favorites (Campo de Anta), but also the bad weather on some days and my mistake of not monitoring the sprint night events. In the results board, what comes to my mind is the overwhelming victory of Thierry Gueorgiou.

In 2009 the load of work was incomparable because I was Event Director with my friend António Rodrigues and it was my club organizing. I remember the drama of tense relantionships of land owners with the 3rd and 4th days at risk, three days before the event and the 2nd day on the morning of the event, our choice of offering different types of terrain. The most striking memory was the OriShow on the football field of Cabeção. We started that event on the brink of disaster, I was so close to cancel it, but then things started very poorly and ended with hundreds of spectators enjoying the exciting finals. It was not important for runners but it remained in my memory.

In 2011, again advising, and first opportunity to work with my friend Fernando Costa. The technical work was far more demanding than it had been in 2007, but I had excellent moments with GD4C organizing team and on the results board, Thierry again with brilliant results on the male Elite with Simone Niggli winning on women Elite. The worst moment was maybe the Closing Ceremony, which is maybe one of the toughest moments for POM organizers after so many days of work and so close to the end, it’s hard to maintain high working levels and focus on the tasks for a smooth and enjoyable Closing Ceremony.

What is the role and importance for Portuguese Orienteering and for our country of an event with such a dimension and projection as Portugal’O’Meeting?

L.S. - In Portugal this event should have seen by media on a different way, because it’s one of the events among all sports that brings to Portugal more foreign competitors. But we lack the means of other sports to reach Portuguese major media. But that visibility exists among other Orienteering countries and I believe we have been working well on the latest years to make of Portugal a major World destination on Winter Foot Orienteering. I have many friends in Spain and I love to participate in Spanish events but it seems to me that in the beginning of this century there was a clear challenge among Portugal and Spain; Portugal seems to take the lead, and now is unimaginable to have Spanish directors to schedule a World Ranking Event to the same days of POM has it happened a few years ago. POM is now holding to numbers of participants thought impossible about 10 years ago, almost always above 1500 since 2007 edition, and that is also reflected on the WRE of the weekend afterwards, on the winter training camps. This level of high organizing standards must be valued but also preserved, creating conditions to avoid a weak POM that could risk in a year the work of several years building a solid image of good events.

What responsibilities and challenges come along with being Adviser of an event like this?

L.S. - I see my duties as someone who is available to help organizers. And only if we feel that Organizers (or someone among its multiple elements) are not working for runners but have other priorities instead of runners (like giving more importance to financial targets or regional politician goals), those are the moments that we start representing and defending runners. I try to be a part of the organizing team and make clear with my work that I can help and not be a controller and an outside element seen as an obstacle. I try not to load on expenses of the Federation and that has been visible in my work in Viseu has I have been able to visit in the terrain all controls in three days working from sun rise till sun nightfall (I haven’t seen all controls of the sprint event but I have seen more than 350 controls in those three days), making the main target of my work on all technical issues of the event on such demanding terrains that force all players on these works to have an high degree of focus and concentration while being on the competition terrain (curiously belonging to a team that worked with me in 2007). The most and better work done on the preparation phase on a event like this, the more secure and calm we’ll be on the event days.

How is the preparation work of your job as Adviser of POM 2012?

L.S. - I got this train already on movement because I was invited to replace my fellow adviser Rui Antunes, although still in time to follow all the course setting procedures. Ori-Estarreja has been doing an exceptional technical work just like they did in 2007. The tasks are taking their course and things seem to be going quite well and only the website could be more dynamic to catch the attention of those who are still in doubt of coming to Viseu. Technical work is now on it’s closing stage and now is the time to process and answer many entries and requests and to close other preparation procedures like start times, spectators information procedures, human resources charts and time tables.

Is it being difficult to connect and get reports from the organizing clubs or relationships with Ori-Estarreja and Clube de Orientação de Viseu has been going smoothly?

L.S. - In POM 2011 there was an unusual role of the organizing team to make three municipalities speak as one and GD4C made it possible to put that kind of risk to the event on it’s advantages because they were really working together and not against each other. In POM 2012 we have two different municipalities and two different organizing clubs but that is working quite well because there’s the local club (Clube de Orientação de Viseu) who use it’s advantages to communicate with local entities and the largest and more experienced club that uses their know-how and experience to the more technical details of a big Orienteering event. My job has been almost totally done with Ori-Estarreja because on the organizing model planned they have responsibility over the four main events, with COV more attached to local entities and the sprint of Viseu. Maybe communication and spreading information could be more effective, and maybe a large municipality as Viseu could have a major role in that kind of tasks, but it is important to highlight the outstanding work on terrain prospection and my friends in Ori-Estarreja will understand that I point out the outstanding role of a poorly known club like COV that has been undertaking an important work on the promotion of Orienteering in a district that is probably the Portuguese district with more potential to discover new terrains to our sport.

What Portugal O’Meeting are we going to find this year?

L.S. - If anyone is in doubt if the event will be at the level of it’s previous editions, I have no doubt in stating that it has the potential to overcame them. Naturally, not everything will go according to what is planned. I use to say that if the sun shines, the organizers can shine too, but if the rain appears, organizers will only be seen has effective, because the idea of the event on participants will never be so positive. If the weather helps (and we are not talking about high mountains, like 2007 terrains), there are good probabilities of an outstanding event in a event that is reaching Top10 world most seen events (taking advantage of being the first big event of the season and being used as a first measurer to evaluate top runners condition for the rest of the season), beautiful areas, mainly in Sátão, and in my opinion, an event that will be increasing it’s quality level from day to day, reaching the 4th that is clearly my favourite competition day. This POM will take Orienteering community to know a city that has been out of our sport but that has a lot to offer, and the sprint and trail orienteering events will be a pleasurable way to do it. Out of curiosity these events will be made on a small part of Urban Viseu map that is probably one of the biggest urban maps of Portugal.

Only three weeks away from Portugal’O’Meeting beginning, is there something in particular that worries you or you continue to sleep beautifully?

L.S. - What should be done at this stage is done. There is still a lot to do, but there’s no need to be worried by advancement. There’s organizing experience by all involved and there’s good working abilities to do it. I confess that on a multi day event, I’m worried with the organizing team regeneration day after day. When the first day will start, there will be players on this project already with high loads of tiredness on their shoulders. It is not easy to reach 4th day still with a smile on the face and the ability to concentrate in doing things well done. The other concern is not in our hands but it creates some anxiety. I speak of the weather, although I know that a bad weather affects mainly those who go for a nice sightseeing walk in the forest and the organizers. For those who are there to compete, it’s not important if it rains or if it’s sunny, they are only concerned with the map and their options.

I would ask you, on a personal note and as an Event Adviser of the most important event of Portuguese Orienteering, to express a vote for this year’s edition.

L.S. - What I want for this POM is that if you're Portuguese and don’t know if you want to go, don’t hesitate. If you like to orienteer, you’ll like this event. If you came from other countries and you’ll have your flights already booked, I’m sure you’ll want to come back again after this experience in Viseu. Those who prospected terrains, those who did the maps and those who set your courses, did a good job to receive you all well. Personally, I just hope to be on a level that is suited to what Portuguese Orienteering needs and to enjoy one of the tasks that give to me most pleasure in Orienteering: Being an Event Adviser.

Everything about POM 2012 at

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