Monday, July 20, 2015

Open letter: Splitting the WOC?

A few days before the World Orienteering Championships WOC 2015, some prominent individuals reported about the intention of the International Orienteering Federation to split the World Championships in “sprint” and “forest”, to be held in alternate years. An open letter to the IOF Council and the national federations that worth to read.

“Are the traditional orienteering countries ready to organize a forest WOC without the “show event”; the sprint? Are they ready to organize and finance a forest WOC with good TV-productions in forest disciplines? Is it possible to get sponsors for a forest WOC?” These are some of the issues raised by a number of individuals essentially linked to the training area and high competition, insert in an open letter to the Council of the International Orienteering Federation and the national Federations. Per Forsberg, Simone Niggli, Brigitte Huber Grüniger, Radek Novotny, Daniel Hubmann, Bruno Nazário, Tom Quayle, Matthias Niggli and Janne Salmi are the signatories of a letter alerting, especially, for the care to be when you want to change, radically, “the most important international Orienteering event in the World.”

“As the World Orienteering Championship is the most important international orienteering event, changes need to be considered very carefully. In our opinion, it would be better to keep the status quo than to change something without being sure about the consequences. The last changes about the qualification scheme and the introduction didn’t shake the whole system of WOC, but splitting WOC will have big consequences for runners, teams, federations, organizers, media and IOF which we cannot predict at the moment”, can be read in the Open Letter. The signatories also make a point to remember the example of WOC 2014 in Venice and Lavarone: “So it’s even possible to organize a complete WOC in two places.”

Conclusions and proposals

After disclosing a set of possible difficulties and risks to take up the new model, Per Forsberg and his peers say: “If we want to increase the number of places and countries, we need to give the know-how to these countries, unless if it is urban or forest. There would thus be a need to build a group within international orienteering to provide quality and fairness in all international events, this operation being very expensive for the IOF. To organize an international orienteering event is not a simple task and needs lot of experience. But at the moment, there is not enough professional quality assurance at the events and knowledge is not going further to the next organizer as it always is a new country and a new organizing committee”, they note.

The Open Letter contains also some more conclusions and proposals: To improve the sport of orienteering and to get more attendance, visibility and excitement, WOC should not need to be shortened and separated. To show the fascination of orienteering widely, properly and annually - it is just the other way round: WOC should actually last 8-9 days, including two weekends. WOC should be a real orienteering festival and a window to our sport, shoving all its characters. [...] Rather than splitting the WOC, we’d (in case of difficulties in finding a WOC-host annually) rather see WOC organized biannually and simultaneously much effort to be put on rising the status on EOC and World Cup”, it's said. The risk to lose the fascination of our best event is too big!”, they conclude.

Joaquim Margarido

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