Saturday, March 24, 2012

EOC/ETOC 2014: Palmela, a handful of opportunities

1. It was announced in first hand by Orientovar – - and the news surprised (almost) everyone. The organization of the European Championships EOC / ETOC 2014 had just been assigned to Portugal, and Palmela, South of Lisbon, would host the event. The initial enthusiasm, however, soon appeared to fade. The dates for the event, the quality of the terrains, the technical capacity to organize the European Trail-Orienteering Championship and the offer of the Training Camps have been pointing out the main questions surrounding the Championships, doubts that have been increasing as time progresses. Portuguese Orienteering Blog accepted to play the role of the "devil's advocate", trying, at the same time, to demystify what can be demystified. And there came to the conclusion that "there are no boots to take off." There is, instead, a wealth of opportunities that cannot be wasted.

2. The choice of Palmela is based on a fundamental pillar. It was an initiative that has its point of departure at the various structures in the County (Schools, Clubs and local Authorities) that, in a coordinated way, came up for the Portuguese Orienteering Federation to express their interests in receiving a major organization of Orienteering, precisely at the moment that the International Orienteering Federation proposed to the Portuguese Federation, along with some other Federations, to stand for EOC / ETOC 2014. It is commendable that things have happened this way, since it is given expression to the genuine interest of a region cherishing the sport.

3. Expressing this concern, Palmela immediately secured the necessary financial conditions for the organization could be a reality. Of course, in the present context of economic crisis, the Portuguese Orienteering Federation couldn't give a step bigger than the legs, risking to put into question its future sustainability. So, the solid assurance of financial support was a “sine qua non” condition for the partnership with Palmela. Separately, the financial factor cannot, by itself, sustain the Portuguese Orienteering Federation's option by the municipality of Palmela. But that is a very important factor, that everyone must understand and accept.

4. In addition to the two aspects mentioned above, there is the question of the terrains, which has been sounded softly by a large pair of voices. The truth is that Palmela is the county with the largest area in the Lisbon metropolitan area, extending its territory until Alcácer do Sal and Vendas Novas. They are not, admittedly, the best terrains in Portugal, but they are, certainly, terrains with the necessary quality that will allow a EOC / ETOC 2014 with all the dignity that the sport requires and that will make Portugal proud of another great organization. Anyway, the "expansion" to nearby counties is on the table and it is hypothesized that shouldn't be discarded, ensuring that there is an understanding between the involved parts.

5. But there is another aspect that recurrently comes up and is debated passionately. We shouldn't forget that, more important than the quality of the terrains, is the route planning. I am between those who argued that a bad course set can absolutely ruin a good map, just as a clever stroke, able to take full advantage of the terrain features, is the best starting point for building real challenges for the participants, raising to the status of some excellent terrains that, at the outset, did not fulfil the conditions considered ideal. In fact, we should never speak about terrains and course set in isolation, but always in binary terms.

6. The question of the dates for the event is not closed yet, pending by a favourable opinion from the International Orienteering Federation to the proposed dates. We are sure, however, that the proposal was made taking into account various factors, including the organization of a WRE in the neighbouring country and the Spanish National Championships, at Easter time. In particular, the relationship between the Spanish Orienteering Federation and its Portuguese counterpart has been fantastic, so the dates given by both sides potentiate rather than inhibit the participation in all the events involved.

7. The issue of Training Camps, which provides an excellent opportunity to attract athletes to our country already in 2013, is another aspect that deserves particular attention. The Municipality of Palmela may not be an hypothesis on this particular aspect, but it opens large windows of opportunities for the Clubs located in the peripheral areas and that own very similar terrains. We must get to work now and bet heavily on this chance. It is unique and it can not come to repeat as soon as we would wish.

8. ETOC 2014: How are going to "take this boot off"? The truth is that there is no “boot” to “take off”. The fact is that, in Portugal, we have almost no experience in organizing major events of Trail Orienteering, but it is no less true that we are in contact with some internationally recognized people in this area and whose cooperation we rely on in order to support us in this organization. This commitment has to be seen by all of us as an unrepeatable opportunity in order to take a huge leap in this discipline in Portugal. And it must be understood from now on! The combination of maps and terrains of exceptional quality, the technical expertise and the kindness of a huge weather, can make of Portugal an oasis for trail-orienteers in the period of winter, attracting top orienteers from all over the world. As, indeed, what happens now in Foot Orienteering.

9. Summarizing the foregoing, the Portuguese Orienteering Federation gratefully supported the desire expressed by Palmela, who advanced to the highest level with the expression of that desire, accompanied by the necessary support and the availability of suitable terrains. No other region, through their local authorities or clubs, ever made it in relation to the EOC / ETOC and we should be grateful and acknowledged by the opening of the municipality to Orienteering. The opportunities offered are unique and its impact and scope can project the sport in our country to levels of excellence never achieved before. It is, therefore, crucial to have the massive involvement of the whole orienteer community, once again, each one giving their best towards the common good. Thus, we are confident that Portugal will return to write, in golden letters, its name in the Book of Honour of the major international events.

[See here the promotional video]

Joaquim Margarido

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