Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Portugal O' Meeting 2014: Event Director's preview

The major event of the portuguese regular season is getting closer. Four weeks away, with the number of entries closing on the thousand runners, we went to speak to Luís Santos, director of the event. Here are his answers on a event anticipating high quality and major emotions.

The last time that CPOC organized Portugal’O’Meeting was in 2009. Five years more and what major differences on an organizing point of view can you establish comparing to Mora’s edition?

Luís Santos – I would say that these two events are clearly landmarks on the life of our club. All results of our athletes, all other events are so small comparing to the intensity, responsibility and dimension of POM. So the 2009 and the 2014 are similar to us but I can point out some differences between them.

In 2009 we tried to reassure diversity on the chosen type of terrains, but now we seeked mainly high quality orienteering areas covered with rocky elements, although with one major difference because day 1 and day 3 are mainly forest covered areas and day 2 and day 4 are more open rocky areas. In 2009 we had about 80 organizers and now CPOC has a bit more than 60 and will have some help of local entities to complete the organizing team. In 2009 the support of Mora Municipality was very important to the high quality event we organized and now we have also a very supporting municipality in Gouveia. Maybe that happens because we have created similar projects with national events to start and an organizing peak with POM. In Mora it started in 2006 and had POM in 2009 and in Gouveia we started in 2011. Finally I would say that the weakest moment on the 2009 edition was the regional dinner and now in 2014 we are not taking any chances, scheduling the regional dinner for one of the most known portuguese restaurants – Restaurante Albertino in Folgosinho, and the cultural moments being prepared will also help to make it an enjoyable night for those who will participate.

With the preparation processes entering their decisive phase, I would ask you to tell us what is already done and what is not done yet.

L. S. – Well, it’s difficult to answer this question without being very detailed because there are many preparation activities going on on these days (just out of curiosity my next task will be to identify all controls who are on stony ground were we can’t put a normal control point and have to use a different wooden structure). However, for what matters the most for participants, the maps are all concluded, except one of the 2 model events, the courses are all set, have been tested and are now on final revision (the technical information table will be revised soon). Most of the work under way is now on logistic matters and in communication level, were we have a good work going on by the Gouveia Municipality, namely with a press conference scheduled for 11th February to be held in Lisbon.

For a club located near Lisbon, the issue of the road distances is a major problem. The lack of a connection club on the region makes CPOC work harder, having probably on the municipality of Gouveia its only support. From your words, we can conclude that the work among the 2 entities is going well.

L. S. – Personally, it gives me much more pleasure to do 600 kms to prepare an event on terrains with this quality than to do 40 or 50 kms to prepare events on locations with low technical quality for orienteering. This serves to say that distances get a lot less important when we work with enthusiasm and dedication. A lot of this enthusiasm has to do with the way the municipality of Gouveia has become intensly envolved on the preparation of the event, and also on the sport itself, understanding the fantastic conditions to be a well known location for orienteers all over the world. What we haven’t been able to do is to generate new orienteering clubs in Gouveia, for now.

On the last 2 editions, POM has gained a lot of visibility by the winning elections of its courses. The election of best courses of the year in 2012 and 2013 will be adding responsability and gather biger attention to the technical preparation of the event. How does CPOC lives with the responsability to succeed to these contest victories?

L. S. – These elections were very nice awards to the recognition of the high quality of portuguese orienteering events and for the knowledge of the brand “Portugal’O’Meeting” on international orienteering, but they don’t change anything on the the way we work on the technical choices for our orienteering events. Probably we, alone (Luís Gonçalves on the sprint, Acácio Porta Nova on trail-O, me on the first day and Mariana Moreira on the 3rd day), will be below the quality of the awarded course setters, but the work done has contributions of all the team, collecting the added value of the event advisers (António Amador and Joaquim Margarido) and of our most experienced runners such as Vera Alvarez or João Valente. But our major added value comes from the map makers and course setters Raquel Costa and Tiago Aires. They grew up on the club and altough they are now professional map makers, they work hard with us, and have a major contribution for the event. They did the prospection work, and every inch of all maps produced and they also prepared the courses for the 2nd and 4rd day. They are very experienced having done several works on former editions of POM but they have also been hired to work on countries like Sweden. Raquel Costa is probably the best female map maker worldwide nowadays.

The first round of the World Cup in Antalya (Turkey) colliding on the same date would predict a shortage of entries and on the quality of the event itself. But names such as Thierry Guergiou, Albin Riedefelt, David Andersson, Vilius Aleliunas or Simone Niggli, on a day were numbers are quickly aproaching the thousand of participants, appears not to have anything to do with the worst expectations. What is your reading about this and what expectations do you have for the final number of entries?

L. S. – Well, I would say that for the IOF, Portugal’O’Meeting doesn’t exist or is a target to shot at. We have a World Cup Event colliding with Portugal’O’Meeting and probably Portugal’O’Meeting could be a major threat for the success of this World Cup edition, so, to reduce the danger of runners freely choosing events, they make the presence in all World Cup Events mandatory. More than a year ago we tried to convince the Turkish organizers to change the date but has we have always the carnival weekend, they seem to have their event always on the first weekend of March. This contact was done with the knowledge (and the silence, I might add) of IOF.

I would say that we were working hard for a great event and preparing ourselves to have a smaller number of participants reduced to a minimum of 1200 knowing that most of the major stars on orienteering could be divided, and together with Elite runners, lots of others could choose Turkey. Besides that we also have this year’s EOC edition in Portugal and we were afraid of the proximity of the events (already on April) but we never ceased to make our best bets for high quality terrains, maps and courses. Personally it’s very nice to know that both Thierry Gueorgiou and Simone Niggli choosed Portugal, even though their countries are represented in Turkey. The turkish event might have many Elite participants just for the fact of being a World Cup Event, but runners of other classes are massively picking Portugal’O’Meeting with numbers increasing like in former years (as I write we are already above 1000).

POM is not only a foot orienteering event. The stage of Pre-O, on Sunday afternoon, will gather the attention of the best national orienteers and even some world level competitors like the british John Kewley or the italian Remo Madella. Do you want to talk to us about this stage in Parque da Senhora dos Verdes?

L. S. – We have been organizing pre-o events since 2004, on the first times by the hand of Alexandre Romeiras and now with Acácio Porta Nova leading that stage. We always gave particular attention to trail-o and I think we can support these words with the fact that this might be one of the first (or maybe the first) event in Portugal with a map produced only for the Pre-O stage. Parque da Senhora dos Verdes is a beautiful park very close to the 2nd day’s Arena (about 2 kms away). I believe that it will be an enjoyable stage of POM.

I know you wish to have a very nice weather sponsoring the event, Serra da Estrela also deserves a visit with many beautiful places to visit. But I would let these things for a final question, inviting you to give us some final impressions, as an invitation for potential participants.

L. S. - Yes, it would be very nice to have good weather like in former editions of POM. Besides the weather, Serra da Estrela has lots of beautiful places as you can find in our website. Today, the higher grounds of Serra da Estrela where we have our club map of Vale do Rossim (at about 1400 m high comparing with the 150 m mark of the stages of POM) are beautifully covered with snow, what will have a slight impact on the event only conditioning one of the model events, scheduled for Vale do Rossim to offer this fabulous location if the snow allows us to offer it. We can not forget about the knownk Carnival Festival of Gouveia with a strong tradition and also on a gastronomical level with nice moments on Albertino of Folgosinho or even on Ponte dos Cavaleiros inside Arcozelo’s map. Inside the event, we will have spectators’ control on all days except the 2nd, we will also have a map switch on the first day, and a chasing start on the last. We are also planning to use for the first time in Portugal’O’Meeting, gps tracking for the main competitor’s on the 3 stages of Arcozelo.

You can find all information on http://www.pom.pt/pt/.

Joaquim Margarido

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