Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bruno Nazário: 2014, the turning season! (Part II)

(Interview, 2nd Part)

Leaving the international scene and analysing the domestic season, what is your balance?

B. N. - In any country, orienteering lives exclusively of the Elites. So, the big thought that must be made - not just by me but for all the agents of the sport - it's about what's going on, why our events have fewer people participating. Rather than analysing who won or lost the ranking, this should be the major concern, why we have fewer people competing.

And why?

B. N. - Well, I have twice expressed my opinion on this matter in the appropriate place, which is the General Assembly of the Portuguese Orienteering Federation . In my opinion, there is an excess of events in our annual calendar. A “normal” Portuguese family, a couple with one or two children, doesn't have funds to make the required number of stages to complete the ranking. It's almost unbearable, unless you have behind you a club that supports most of these costs. So, my perspective is that orienteering should be more and more based in local and regional competitions, thus minimizing the costs of a weekend away from home, with travel, accommodation, food and even the inscriptions on the race heavily weighting on the family budget. If we want to develop orienteering, we have to reach more people. Take a look on what is happening with the Trail running, with races emerging every day, “like mushrooms”, and giving to the people the possibility - if not this week, then on the next one -, to participate and make what they like doing, without the problem of a long displacement. I think this is a good example of how to attract new participants. It is a matter of realizing what we want, after all. But, again, I emphasize that this is a decision that should be taken not only by the Federation but also by the orienteers, in general.

The fall of the number of participants heads your concerns. And competitively, was there also a regression?

B. N. - Yes, the fact that we didn't have all the top athletes in all races lowered the level of competition. We should expect to see in the World Championships the two top athletes in the ranking and none of them was in Vuokatti. A large number of athletes saw their participation in a large number of events conditioned by professional or academic commitments. You can see what happens with Tiago Aires, our most valuable athlete, unable to participate in a large number of events for being the mapmaker. In my opinion, however, with a smaller number of stages, we could increase the competitiveness and the final results would translate more accurately the reality of our sport.

Which is having the athletes focused in the great challenges, the great moments, achieving great results.

B. N. - Yes, that's what we want. The way the Portugal O' Cup's calendar is designed, from January to November, makes it very difficult to win the ranking and to be in shape in the World Championships, which is what you want to our top athletes. Personally, I prefer having the athletes in top shape at the World Champs than having an athlete who scores very well in the Portugal O' Cup, ends up being the winner, but can't be at the highest level in the World Champs.

Men vs Women. This year we didn't have female athletes in the World Championships and I ask you if we are disinvesting in the female sector.

B. N. - I 'd say that it's not a question of disinvestment. Unfortunately, the Federation doesn't have enough money to take two full teams to the World Championships, as I wished, and that's the problem. We could also do as our Spanish colleagues did, forgetting the week of adaptation and training in Finland before the Championships and bringing more athletes. But I think that, in terms of results, it wouldn't be helpful. It was my choice, based on the analysis I was doing throughout the season. I do not see this as a disinvestment, but just a question of lack of resources.

Are we going to be able, without resources, to reverse the situation as soon as possible?

B. N. - I don't know. My hope is that next season will be the turning season. We will have the European Championships in Portugal and, finally, we have no limitations in terms of athletes, teams may submit complete, both the male and the female sector. Likewise, there will be an investment in bringing female athletes to the World Championships, in Italy. It is an effort and a commitment to improve the female's sector and I think there is enough motivation to make it happen.

This new “batch” of athletes, our juniors, our youngsters... what's coming up?

B. N. - They're coming up athletes that will face many years of experience at youth level, something that is fundamental to make the leap to the Elite. Predominately athletes from H16 class, like João Bernardino, António Ferreira, João Novo, Ricardo Esteves, Daniel Catarino... But they will have to work hard before reaching this level.

Interestingly, you didn't mention a female athlete...

B. N. - No, I didn't. But, as you may have noticed, none of these athletes have made the jump to the Elite yet, whereas in girls the situation is different. The idea of forming a group of girls and women to the EOC leads us to think of names like Beatriz Moreira, Joana Fernandes and Carolina Delgado, all of them belonging to the youth level, and also Vera Alvarez, still aged junior, to integrate the work of the Portuguese National Team. Some of them will possibly be in Palmela, what constitutes a bet for the future and also gives them the opportunity to make the transition to the Elite as smoothly as possible.

Taking on the subject of the Europeans, what Championships will these be? How may the home ground factor play in our favour?

B. N. - I don't know, things are not fully defined in my head yet. As for the qualification and the final Sprint, the things are already very well structured, given the terrains, but I still have many doubts regarding the remaining distances. I think it will be a Championship with a high organizational level, lining with what Portugal has already shown to be capable of. I don't know if the choice of terrains has been the most appropriate for our athletes' characteristics, but we are here to give our best and to dignify our country.

You know a lot of orienteers from around the world. Do you feel any particular interest or motivation to be in Portugal for the EOC? Are there many people contacting you in order to know what to expect?

B. N. - In the beginning there were some people asking me about the type of terrain and even now some teams and some athletes, individually, are trying to seek the most appropriate terrains to prepare the European Championships. However, I can't see the same interest in the Europeans as I see in the World Championship. The World Champs continues and will always continue to be the most important event of the season for all top Elite athletes.

Within a couple of days, the best athletes worldwide will start to settle in our country, for the Training Camps, preparing the new season. This year, however, we can realize that there is a huge concurrence from Spain, Italy and even Turkey. How do you assess a situation that ultimately may result in the loss of a certain prominence of Portugal in the recent years, in the called winter season?

B. N. - This concurrence is part of the globalization process and we can not prevent the others from organizing. The Portuguese purpose should always be to maintain the high quality standard of our organizations, because it's in there that many international athletes believe. I understand that if we continue doing well our job, the athletes will continue to visit us. But we have to be realistic and realize that we will not retain people forever, that Portugal is and will forever be the only winter destination. Any one of us likes to vary the holiday location and the athletes, especially elite athletes, also looking for different terrains and new challenges year after year, having new experiences that further enrich their navigational abilities.

We approach now the end of our interview, and I still have three quick questions for three quick answers too. The first one: “WOC in the Future”?

B. N. - I don't know if I can give you three quick answers (laughs). I had the chance to speak in this year's Conference of Presidents of the IOF, showing my disappointment about the new format of the World Championships. As you know, grouping the countries in three divisions limits the number of athletes present at the Long Distance and Middle Distance's Finals and this is the great ax in our sport given by the International Orienteering Federation itself. What they are doing is telling many athletes from many countries that they can stop training towards the World Championships because they will never be able to get there. This will lead, inevitably, to a decrease in the competitive level in those countries. How do you motivate a group of ten or fifteen athletes, training season after season, if they all know that only one of them will be present at the World Championships?

Media coverage?

B. N. - In terms of media coverage, what I would like to see would be the International Orienteering Federation giving an effective support to the organizations. If we take as an example the World Championships this year, we have to recognize that we had done so much before in the field of mediatization. The production and distribution of items was extraordinarily well developed and the International Federation should concern about going to ensure this level of media coverage in a more consistent way, for example by investing in all competitions of the World Cup and its regular broadcast by major television channels connected to the sport. But what I see is they leave things on the hands of the organizations, apparently without a concerted strategy. And things don't work this way.

The previous answers lead us to a third question: “rich countries vs. poor countries”.

B. N. - That is the real question. Just look at the entries for the World Cup in Turkey. Until now, there are almost 140 athletes registered from fifteen countries and some countries have only one or two athletes, and which, most likely, will be in Antalya at their own expenses. Result: the level of the rich countries is increasing, while the poor countries have more difficulties to get up there. It's an unequal struggle and I believe that it's the sportive justice itself that is in question.

From your point of view, what was the orienteering achievement of the season?

B. N. - Simone Niggli, obviously. She is an athlete who gave much to Orienteering - and I'm sure she will continue to give -, an athlete that marks an era. Even more, to leave orienteering by the big door, with her victory in the World Cup's Final, the Post Finance in Switzerland, was truly phenomenal, was the “icing on the cake”.

What will you have to tell me when, within a year, we talk about another season?

B. N. - Quite frankly, I hope I can tell you about my new baby – I don't even know if it will be a boy or girl -, born at the right time, everything going well and developing normally. To me, this is the most important, our personal life. This is what I owe to my family and that's what I wish for 2014. I still leave a vote for the orienteering community in general, that everything goes well with the organizations and, above all, that we can see more people practicing our sport.

Joaquim Margarido

Monday, December 30, 2013

Bruno Nazário: 2014, the turning season! (part I)

Bruno Nazario, Portuguese Team coach, comes today to the stage of the Portuguese Orienteering Blog. Time to remember the ending season, time to point the attentions towards 2014, “the turning season”.

A year ago, we saw your course setting of the Portugal O' Meeting's WRE Middle Distance, to win the “Course of the Year 2012”, the contest sponsored by World of O. This year, we were already able to taste, with Tiago Romão, another victory in the present edition of the contest. What do these two distinctions in a row for the Portuguese orienteering mean to you?

Bruno Nazario (B. N.) - Well, the results are worth what they're worth in these contests. It's not a poll taken by a panel of experts but a poll taken by the whole community. Still, it's the evidence of the quality and the organizational level of the Portugal O' Meeting in the international context. It is our most important event, the one that gives us visibility.

It is curious that you say “the results are worth what they're worth”, precisely the same expression used by Tiago Romão on his interview. Let me ask you if, as an expert, there was a better course for you, this year, than the Monsanto's Sprint.

B. N. - It's hard to say... I almost dare to say that, focusing exclusively on the Portugal O 'Meeting - and this without contempt towards any other organizations -, the Middle Distance WRE is a very well managed course set and has more merits than the Monsanto's Sprint course. However, these polls also take into account other factors and the terrain was crucial, on that genuine village, in a stunning landscape to which no one can remain indifferent.

What are the consequences, personally, of this kind of recognition?

B. N. - There are always pleasant moments, moments when you feel that your work is recognized, appreciated and has quality. Special moments like these give us, somehow, the guts to keep doing what we like. But nothing more than that.

A year ago, the economic crisis settled in our country and the brutal aggression agains the working class and the pensioners followed its unstoppable course. In this context, the teachers were - and are! - particularly punished by the blind policies of our government. For a teacher, like you are, where do you find the motivation to prepare an entire season?

B. N. - I must tell you that this is a great question, a question pointing directly towards the frustrations that someone in my position has to feel. Someone who, above all, knows that you could do much more with just a little bit more. Motivation is something that often escapes through my fingers, forcing me to focus on the small victories of the athletes. Not disregarding the work of our Federation, who gives me the motivation to continue as an athlete. Year after year, we always take some small steps, we always manage to do a little more, even knowing that our capabilities allow us to go further with better conditions. And this is truly frustrating.

Is this a temporary situation related with the crisis or do you believe that the Federation should apply the money more appropriately? That “little bit more” that you mentioned before, does it exist and is it not well applied or, quite simply, is there no money at all?

B. N. - This is a question for the Federation board, the managers of the money. But the budget is public and each one of us can verify where the money is applied. The truth is that the budget for the selections is unreal! Training camps, displacements, equipments, technicians, everything... If I discuss this with someone, mentioning our budget, people will laugh. To any international coach, it's impossible to understand what can we do with so little money. Even our Spanish colleagues have a budget for Foot-o at least twice ours. Our chances of participating in the major international competitions summed up to the World Championships and, exceptionally, to the European Championships, next year, that will take place in our country. Our budget is so small that, most probably, we won't have the financial capacity to participate in the stages of the World Cup “next door”, in Spain.

Despite all these restrictions, it was possible “to make omelets without eggs” in the recent World Championships. We had, for the first time in Portuguese orienteering history, at least one athlete present in each final.

B. N. - The expression is precisely that, “to make omelets without eggs”. But it is equally important that the orienteer community realizes that our level of achievement is clearly above the level of orienteering in Portugal. There is no country with only four athletes present in Vuokatti - and one of them with the misfortune of contracting gastroenteritis two days before the Championships - reaching four finals in a set of seven qualifications. In a certain way, we didn't achieve our goal in the Relay, but what we achieved was truly fabulous. For me it was fabulous! It's not the result achieved by Ukraine, for example, with an extraordinary bronze medal in the Relay, but the fact is that all their athletes live and train in Sweden. This is not the case of our athletes. Except for Tiago Aires, who spent a few days in Sweden with his club, all the other athletes worked in their clubs in Portugal, met each other a couple of times in the training camps with the national team and were in Vuokatti to achieve what they have achieved.

It's our great ability, to overcome at the important moments...

B. N. - I don't know if I call it that. I think we have talent... There is huge merits in the work develop by the athletes. My position is a bit like the “manager”, I mean the person who can manage the talent, who can manage the budget and make the “impossible” for being in Vuokatti a week before the World Championships, finding where to stay for a very low price – you don't realize where we were staying - and having with us Rafael Miguel, also, which helped a lot in the physical recovery day by day. Some small details put at the service of the athletes that worked very well, allowing them to put in the courses their enormous talent. I think that it's this talent which makes the difference.

Looking at the results achieved by our athletes at the World Championships, is there any in particular that deserves to be highlighted?

B. N. - I really highlight the work that was done together, even recognizing that not everything had been perfect. For example, in the Long Distance, if we combine the best splits of Diogo Miguel and the best splits of Tiago Aires, we see that we could easily achieve a result in the top 30, which was our big goal and something never achieved before. But during the course there were things that didn't work, Tiago suffered a lot with cramps and Diogo also did a couple of mistakes but, overall, we were sure that the Portuguese level is high enough for a top 30 in Long Distance. In his first year into the Elite and for the first time in the World Championships, João Mega reached a very good result in a very complicated Sprint, a very tricky course, with many options. He was really good and the doors are open to higher flights next year.

Don't loose the second part of the Interview, tomorrow, at your Portuguese Orienteering Blog.

Joaquim Margarido

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Vera Alvarez: "Work is the secret"

Leading figure of the Portuguese orienteering, Vera Alvarez is the Orientovar's guest for today. Joining the national Absolute title, the titles of Sprint, Middle Distance and Relay, and also the victory at the Portugal O' Cup overall, the athlete has achieved an unprecedented feat in the history of Portuguese orienteering and talks about her achievements. But there is more, much more!

You left for the Absolute National Championships in the lead of the Portugal O' Cup's ranking and you have 'absolutely' confirmed a victory that was more than deserved. Did you manage, with this “icing on the cake”, to achieve all the goals that you had set at the beginning of the season?

Vera Alvarez (V. A.) - At the very beginning, when I set my goals, I focused my attention on the preparation for the JWOC. This year, at the Portuguese O' Cup, I wasn't sure what to expect and I was a little afraid about the results, but I knew that winning was a possibility. In the end, I guess that I must to be happy, the luck was by my side and paid off my efforts with the results in the National Championships. I was able to stay, both mental and physically, very confident and I won the Sprint, the Middle and the Relay (with the precious help of Mariana Moreira and Susana Pontes). However, I got injured two weeks before the JWOC and it was absolutely impossible to run the courses at the level I wanted to, staying too far from my main goals. So, I can't see my victory in the Absolute Championships as the “icing on the cake”, but just a good sign and encouragement for the next year.

How motivated were you, facing the last stages of the Portugal O' Cup, and how did you see the conquest of the Absolute national title?

V. A. - The whole season was quite different from what I was used to in orienteering so far. And different for better! Since I was 14, and even competing always in a class above my age, I felt alone in competitions and didn't need to make a great performance to win. To overcome this fact, I always attached myself to the international participations, trying to do more and better. This year, I did not need to do this, clearly feeling that competitiveness, as well as the defeats, along this season, further motivated me to evolve as an athlete. The times I didn't win, I got an extra motivation to train and work, making sure that the situation wouldn't repeat. So, I faced the Portugal O' Cup stages much more seriously this year. As for the Absolute Championships, this was a title that I already felt in the previous years that I could win, but I always had problems: several times, I could not attend the Champs, I've been disqualified in the qualifications, I always performed badly in Finals... until last year, when I screwed everything close to the Finish and I ended up 26 seconds from the title. This year I wanted to reverse this, once and for all, so this was a victory with a special flavour.

Throughout this process, this winning combination, where does the secret lie?

V. A. - Secret... Well, I wouldn't call it a secret. To get the results you need to practice and, without work, there is no success. Of course, I can't deny that all the family support that I have, as well as the experience acquired in the recent years, always help a lot. However, these factors by themselves do not determine the success. I can perfectly feel that I do more technical mistakes when I'm not in a good shape. When I'm in shape, all this reverses: I am focused, determined, confident that I will make a good race and many times it happens. Work is the secret and all you need is the will to achieve it.

Do you want to tell us something about your daily routine?

V. A. - Doing my studies in Medicine, I need to devote much time to the books and this year was even more complicated, not only because I have classes every day but also because I spend more than two hours per day in displacements. My class schedules vary widely, depending on the day of the week, but they are mainly in the afternoon. Thus, on a bi-daily training, I run very early in the morning. If not, I limit myself to study until it's time to go to classes. At the end, I come home at around 7 p.m. and I go run at 8 or 9 p.m. After the training, I come back to study until I go to sleep, usually late. In all this process I feel that it would be very different if I had some teammates for training, because to run alone every day is something that I don't especially like.

2013 was, clearly, an atypical season. Just by realizing that none of the top three ranking in the Portugal O' Cup Men Elite was present at the World Championships, we can realize that the things were, at least, strange. How do you evaluate the 2013 season of the Portuguese orienteering?

V. A. - Not being taken with the same commitment from all the athletes, the Portugal O' Cup ranking clearly cannot reflect the value of national athletes. We continue to work to get the best shape in June and July, when the World Orienteering Championships are held, and to rest in the summer holidays. Taking this into account and not forgetting the frequent injuries that many athletes suffer along the season is natural that winning the Portugal O' Cup is not the main goal for many of us. This season, several athletes who could have given a different turn to the rankings, were absent for various reasons , and we cannot rely on the ranking to evaluate 2013. Therefore , I rely on the excellent results of the WOC to say that this was a good season to the Portuguese orienteering, at least in the men's class. The women class is more difficult to assess, but I think that we can see on it a certain evolution.

The truth is that Portugal wasn't represented by any female athlete in the World Champs, in Vuokatti. Do you see this as a disinvestment in the female elite category or is this only a temporary situation?

V. A. - Orienteering in the male sector is much more competitive and that is something that nobody can deny. It is the same worldwide. Still, I do not agree that we are undervalued because it's not our fault that this happens and we try to do our part. The situation, though also caused by cyclical conditions, left us unhappy .

And overall, which is for you the highest moment or the personality of 2013?

V. A. - Simone Niggli, again and again. Her 'goodbye' was absolutely great!

The highest point of the season in Portugal is usually the Portugal O 'Meeting. This year, however, we'll have in April the European Championships, monopolizing all attentions. Would you like to tell us about the two events, in the first case because it is an organization of your club and in the second case because you will represent Portugal at the highest level, for the first time?

V. A. - Although, for academic reasons, I'll not do my contribution to the organization of the Portugal O' Meeting as I intended, the CPOC [Clube Português de Orientação e Corrida] is doing an excellent job and I am sure it will be an event to remember. The essential is made: some fantastic maps! As for the European Champs, it's a great opportunity for me to make my debut into the Elite. The EOC in Portugal will be 'super' and I hope to represent Portugal in the best way.

What are your other goals for the next year, both personal/professional and in sports?

V. A. - The academic level this year will be (is being) rather complicated. Thus, my main personal goal is to finish all my subjects as soon as possible in order to devote more time to training. I need much time to study, but wanting to increase the training load it won't be easy... In orienteering, this will be my last season as a junior and the JWOC will be my main goal. Internally, my goals are always to win everything I can, if I'm able to do so. Therefore, all the National Championships and the Portugal O' Cup ranking are inevitably included in the goals.

Finally - and because we are close to turning the page of another year – I ask you to make a wish for 2014.

V. A. - Health! You just give it the value it has when you don't have it (or when you spend the day studying diseases...). I also wish the absence of injury to all of us. Good 2014! :)

Joaquim Margarido

Friday, December 27, 2013

NAOM 2014: Thierry Gueorgiou says 'yes' to Castelo de Vide

Major event on the Portuguese calendar of Foot orienteering, the Norte Alentejano O' Meeting is ready for its 8th edition. Castelo de Vide will be, in 2014, the scenario of all emotions, an event that will score for the world ranking and that has already seen confirmed the presence of the number 1 in the world, Thierry Gueorgiou.

It was in 2007 that the Norte Alentejano O' Meeting presented itself to the world. Starting by the will of the Grupo Desportivo dos Quatro Caminhos, since the very beginning it was clear that the potential of the region for the practice of orienteering had found a perfect parallel in the ambition of the northern club to move forward with the proposal of a huge project involving a large number of municipalities and putting this vast region on the map of the world orienteering. Castelo de Vide, Alter do Chão, Crato, Portalegre and Marvão joined the municipality of Nisa successively, transforming the initial dream into an undeniable truth: The Norte Alentejano O' Meeting is, nowadays, one of the most outstanding events worldwide, attracting every year all the major orienteering specialists.

With a program spread by three stages, the NAOM 2014 will take place on 25th and 26th January, counting for the Portuguese Foot-o Cup 2014. The dam of Póvoa e Meadas will receive the inaugural stage - a Middle Distance course - followed in the afternoon, in the heart of Castelo de Vide, by a stage of Sprint that counts for the world ranking and for the National Urban Circuit 2014. On the last day, we will return to Póvoa e Meadas to another Middle Distance course that will close the event. To the athletes is even offered the chance to participate in the Model Event which will take place on the 24th january and will allow to adapt to the maps and terrains of the competition. There are also the Training Camps, already available at the present moment, with a huge offer consisting at 18 forest trainings, 7 town sprints and more than 300 control points.

With the entries running at a good pace – there are already 141 athletes representing 9 countries with their presence confirmed - the Grupo Desportivo dos Quatro Caminhos has courses of great technical quality to offer, in beautiful terrains, for two days of the best orienteering. With all the main portuguese athletes and Thierry Gueorgiou, the leader of the world ranking and the winner of NAOM in 2011, in Castelo de Vide, will also be the nº. 2 in the world, the Swiss Daniel Hubmann, his brother Martin Hubmann (nº 9 in the world ranking) and also the protagonist of the great achievement in 2013, the Russian Leonid Novikov, current World Champion of Middle Distance and Relay.

Everything to follow at http://www.gd4caminhos.com/en/naom2014/.

Joaquim Margarido

Thursday, December 26, 2013

António Hernandez: "Trail Orienteering is cool!"

Trail orienteering in Spain is trying, now, to retake a way started some three years ago by Roberto Munilla. António Hernández, the new helmsman of this fragile vessel, takes us through a stream of dreams to the route of new destinations.

I would like to briefly ask you about your relationship with Orienteering.

António Hernández (A. H.) - It is almost a matter of family tradition, I have always felt a special attraction to the countryside and the mountains. Furthermore, since I was young, I'm addicted to the Athletics. On the day I discovered that I could “place the two profits in the same bag”, I couldn't believeit. It was in July 1989 and... until now!

What led you to accept the challenge, upon receiving the proposal, last September, to take in your hands the destiny of Trail Orienteering in Spain?

A. H. - Firstly, I like this discipline. The technical challenge attracts me. Moreover, throughout these almost twenty-five years, I did everything in Orienteering: competition, course setting, map making, training, events organization and work direction in both clubs and federations. After leaving the presidency of the Club Alcon (Léon), that I founded myself, I was free and that was when Jose Samper, Technical Director of the Spanish Orienteering Federation (FEDO) , asked me for help in this matter. And why not? From a personal point of view, he faces it as a particularly motivating challenge.

Right now, how do you see the moment of the discipline in Spain?

A. H. - Without withdrawing the merits of the previous responsibles' work, I would say that there is practically everything to be done. They have started a trail that I try to follow now. Roberto Munilla organized the first Spanish Trail Orienteering Championship in 2012, but due to his job, he found himself prevented from doing so in 2013. My goal is not only to make sure that we'll organize the Championships again next year, but also in the following years. This is, perhaps, the most visible aspect of the work we have ahead. But the Federation's project involves much more than this: training, cartographers, attracting Paralympic athletes , etc. Another situation we face has to do with the need to demystify the widespread idea among the orienteering community that Trail Orienteering - and may no one misunderstand what I'm saying – is for “grannys” and disabled people. Why? Trail Orienteering is cool!

So, do you feel that the orienteer community in Spain is not aware of the importance of Trail Orienteering, at least as an inclusive discipline?

A. H. - In fact it is not. And it's not even a question of putting Trail Orienteering on a secondary level. TrailO is something that is seen as easy and without any targets. And then, the FootO guys are full of preconceived ideas, since they are “orienteers” and their skills are, in any case, above those of a paralympic competitor. Pure mistake, indeed factually demonstrated by the large number of wrong answers that they do in a TrailO course and by the results, usually far below than expected. As for the discipline's inclusive nature, it is not even questionable. It's implicit in the social responsibility of the Federation and all the orienteers and has been a concern ever since.

One of your first acts had to do with the participation, in Palmela, in the last stage of the Portugal TrailO Cup 2013 and also in two International Clinics promoted by the Portuguese Orienteering Federation, and later, by the Spanish Orienteering Federation, in Alicante, in early November. I would like to know your opinion about those experiences.

A. H. - Our course is new and we are very few . Therefore, we can not miss any opportunity that arises to gather together , learn and put questions . The Clinic of Palmela , as part of the organizational work of the European TrailO Championships ETOC 2014 was an opportunity that us spanish had to avoid losing . Knut Ovesen knew how to give us a very important part of his long experience. Moreover, as a competitor, he could not miss one of the few competitions carried out in the Iberian Peninsula . Also in Alicante, for the first time in the history of FEDO and the Spanish School of Orienteering Technicians, Trail Orienteering was included in the most important Clinic held annually in Spain. It was one more step!

What strategies do you propose to promote and stimulate the Trail Oienteering activities in Spain?

A. H. - It is necessary to destroy this idea that TrailO is not fun, that it is a "folly". The non-paralympic orienteers involved in the sport have to be the ambassadors of Trail Orienteering in the areas of influence of their clubs, organizing competitions and beginner courses for all: Paralympics and beyond. The Federation can not - must not! - do it all. It should be, yes, the unifying centre, which coordinates the various activities. In this sense , Roberto Munilla and any other person willing to help will be very welcome. I've been an orienteer for long enough to know that by working in a team, it gets further, both in space and in time. The experience also tells me that I should not delude myself , since we are just those willing to collaborate and work. It would be stupid to think I have super powers. I'm the one who coordinates, not the most nor the least, just one more, perhaps the most visible.

What spanish team will we see in Portugal next year to compete in the European Trail Orienteering Championships?

A. H. - At least me, Ana Belén and José António Tamarit, whom you already know. We have a new member in the team and hopefully he can be available at that time. As for Paralympic athletes, we are trying to find someone but it won't be easy.

Will the Spanish Federation organize the II Iberian Trail Orienteering Championships next year?

A. H. - I'll give you a novelty. If everything goes normally, at the 5 Days of Spain, an event that will take place in Palencia in August (www.o5dias.com), we'll have a competition of Trail Orienteering that we will try to make Iberian Championships. It's a pity that it couldn't be in Soria in April, at the same time as the Iberian Foot orienteering Championships. But I must be honest, I would have to organize it and I don't have the time for it. To participate in the ETOC and to organize the Championship in Spain, both events in April, is utterly impossible. However, for Foot-O athletes, I recommend not to lose Soria and the Valonsadero map where the Relay of the EYOC 2010 took place. In the future we'll have Trail orienteering on this map, the terrain is spectacular and it has all the conditions for us to set beautiful courses taking into account the specificities of this discipline.

You were one of the mentors of the project which led to the creation of a group on Facebook called “Iberia O-Prec”. How important is this project? Is it just an isolated experience or, above all, is it an example of how we can and should - Portuguese and Spanish - walk hand in hand?

A. H. - I'm Leonean... For me, Portugal is a very special and dear country. Working together is something that personally excites me. Moreover, to develop the project on social networks is the most logical in these days. Firstly, because it is the future, and we are not as many as that. We need to be close to each other.

What do you expect from this experience at the Trail-O's helm in Spain ?

A. H. - I am part of a Commission that will stay in functions until 2015 and I cannot predict what will happen after that. Until then, my goal is that the Trail orienteering in Spain continues growing and, most of all, it does not stagnate when I leave. If this happens, my work would fail. We turn our attitudes towards creating the necessary ground on which the future of the discipline bases. If I am allowed to express a dream, with me or someone else at the helm of the Trail orienteering in Spain, I can say that I've found a terrain suitable for a World Championships: forest area with contour detail, available in accordance with the requirements of the discipline, with too many miles of map with a contour interval of 2.5 m.

Now that we are turning the page of another year, I asked you to express a wish for 2014.

A. H. - I can not confine the wishes to the sport, since there are more important things in life. For 2014 I wish with all my strength, both in Spain and in Portugal, that all the people who are unemployed find a job worthy of that name.

Joaquim Margarido

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Two or three things I know about it...

1. “It is in winter that you win the upcoming summer medals!” Once again, Thierry Gueorgiou elects Portugal as a major destiny of the winter season, having already confirmed his presence in the Norte Alentejo O' Meeting's eight edition. Attendance confirmed, also, by the Hubmann brothers, at an event that opens a cycle of six portuguese stages counting for the world ranking. The NAOM 2014 will take place in Castelo de Vide, from 25th to 26th January, with all the information available at http://www.gd4caminhos.com/en/naom2014.

2. Last December 11th, Emily Benham and Hans Jørgen Kvåle decided to open some of their personal space to the orienteer community and reveal “everything you ever wanted to know about BenhamKvåle”. To this end, they have proposed a challenge to the readers and they are comparing now the answers between what it's supposed to be and what they really are. Among the many revelations, there is one that holds the attentions. “What is our secret technique to get good results?” Find by yourself at http://benhamkvale.wordpress.com/2013/12/23/benhamkvale-quiz-answers/.

3. With the European Championships on the horizon, the Trail orienteering at the Iberian Peninsula is more active than ever and has just “shelter” under one of the many possible ceilings. It is called Iberia O-Prec and is an Open Group on Facebook where you can share information and to see your question answered by a panel of specialists, namely Martin Fredholm and Lauri Kontkanen. Joaquim Margarido and Antonio Hernández, the main responsible for the Trail orienteering in the “brother countries”, leave the invitation for passing through - https://www.facebook.com/groups/486553704794121/ - and let your opinions, formulate your questions or just say “hello”!

4. A time of peace and harmony, a time for love and hope, Christmas is a time for celebration but rather a time of universal solidarity and human fraternity. At this time of endearment, the Portuguese Orienteering Blog wishes everyone a Happy and Holy Christmas.

[Card: “Christmas in the Trees”, Matt Ogden / http://www.numberoneaucklanddoma.com/maps/show_map.php?user=Matt&map=799]

Joaquim Margarido

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mozambique - A dream that has come true

What to do to get orienteering to these people? When they have so little to live on, how to make them feel happy picking up a map and a compass and going into the forest searching for controls?” What began as a brief whisper in the soul quickly became a deafening scream. Dreams can come true and, in the most intimate of those of José Samper, the dream of orienteering in Mozambique had been born.

The promise of another burning day came with the first rays of sun on the hot and red land. At 6 o’clock in the morning many were those who took the opportunity to escape the heat, enjoying the soft freshness of the Antonio Repinga Park in Maputo for the usual jogging session. A person runs pass another and shouts “Are you Bulgarian?” The belt he had, where “I Love Orienteering” was written in Bulgarian, had apparently given him away. “No, I’m Spanish but I’ve run in Bulgaria”, he replied. “I studied Physical Education in Bulgaria”, said the first one, as he walked away. About ten minutes later, not more, the twists of fate were such that the two men would run pass each other again, picking up the conversation: “You know, I am the Minister of Education and Sport in Mozambique. I would enjoy talking to you in my office. Can you meet me there at 10 a.m.?”

That was early in 2001, and José Samper had been in Mozambique for only four months. He had said goodbye to his military career and started to manage the technical direction of the Spanish Grouping of Orienteering Clubs (precursor of the Spanish Orienteering Federation), but his presence in Mozambique had nothing to do with sport or orienteering in particular. Nevertheless, the agricultural cooperation project he was involved in didn’t stop him from looking around and wondering what to do to get orienteering to these people. How to make them, having so little to live on, feel happy picking up a map and a compass and going into the forest searching for controls, was an unanswered question in the third poorest country in the world. And now the answer and the opportunity were there; Samper could read that in the eyes of Joel Libombo, another “crazy one” in this “crazy world” which is sport.

Commitment to sports cooperation

This implausible encounter and the conversation that followed at Minister Libombo’s office was the seed that germinated and brought its first fruit in 2004. The first ever sporting cooperation with a foreign entity in the history of Mozambican sport took place that year, in this case with the Spanish Orienteering Federation. But between the first contact and that historic date there was a long and arduous journey characterised by patience, dedication and love to orienteering and to Mozambique.

When, on July 27th 2004, José Samper arrived once again in the Maputo International Airport in order to collaborate on the final push to the foundation of the Mozambican Orienteering Federation, he was looking back at two and a half years of hard work: the classes on Friday afternoons at Polana College for the Mozambican Scouts, the adventure of drawing the map of Xefina’s Island including a shipwreck, the orienteering courses in the Antonio Repinga Park. Also the quiet and steady work of the Scouts’ National League of Mozambique, the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation and the Spanish Orienteer- ing Federation to get the Sports Superior Council of Spain and the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Mozambique to sign the first commitment of sports cooperation.

Maputo Town Orienteering Association

With the agreement achieved, it was time to take action on the ground. But soon there came a big setback. Whilst the collaboration of the Scouts’ National League of Mozambique was important from the beginning to the process of starting orienteering in that African country, the League eventually became a constraining factor in the evolution of the process itself, at least with respect to its original purposes. Unlike the League, that wanted to see orienteering restricted to its own members, Samper dreamed of a much broader project, a project in which everyone - schools, universities, clubs - had access to this sport on the same level. That would be a prerequisite for the creation of the Mozambican Orienteering Federation. Today we don’t know what would have been achieved if things had occurred as the Scouts’ League wanted – but development proceeded without it.

It was necessary to find a person who could lead the project, someone with knowledge of the sport and some experience in teaching, who had the necessary economic solvency, was young and ambitious but, above all, believed in the Orienteering Project in Mozambique. And so came the name of Arnaldo Junior Machevene; he, along with the “dissidents” of the Scouts’ National League of Mozambique, Neuso Sigauque , Nuno Cossa and Cardoso Olimpo, created on the 11th January 2004 the Maputo Town Orienteering Association (AOCM), an entity that would be officially recognised on 17th October 2007, as published in the Bulletin of the Republic of Mozambique.

From 2004 to 2007

The first steps of the new Association gave indications of great interest and ambition. On 24th April 2004 AOCM organised the first official event in Mozambique. The presence of a Mozambican athlete in the Latin Countries Cup in 2004 (Vila Real, Portugal) and in 2005 (Seville, Spain), as well as the participation of eight athletes in the International Tournament commemorating the 25th anniversary of the South African Orienteering Federation (February 2006), are distinctive landmarks in early Mozambican orienteering. In 2006 several orienteering events in Mozambique were organised, including the ‘1st Orienteering Clinic for Technicians Level 1’ which was attended by 30 participants, and a 15 km orienteering course on Catembe island which was attended by the CEO of Education of Mozambique and had TV coverage on Mozambican state television and the international TV channel of Portuguese television for Africa.

In early 2007 the legendary world champion Jörgen Mårtensson visited Maputo and prepared a competition in the Continuadores Park which was attended by 300 children. Mårtensson’s impression was overwhelmingly positive, and he committed himself to collaborating in organising and promoting an international event in Mozambique, which took place in November and featured the participation of a hundred Nordic athletes. But the year of 2007 was not only important for this and for the government’s recognition of the Maputo Town Orienteering Association. At its meeting in January, the IOF Council granted AOCM the status of provisional Associate Member, ratified in August of the following year at the IOF General Assembly in the Czech Republic.

A period of stagnation

But then the initial enthusiasm from the ‘1st Orienteering Clinic for Technicians Level 1’ started to fade away. The participants had been asked if they would work for two years teaching orienteering in schools, in religious or cultural centres, in neighbourhoods or wherever it was. They were also encouraged to develop the making of some elementary maps, and the Spanish Orienteering Federation, subsidised by the Sports Superior Council of Spain, offered a laptop computer with the OCAD program installed.

Growth in the following years was unfortunately close to zero. The main cause of this had to do with the lack of proper resources, and there was no money available to pay those who had been asked to teach in schools. And the President of the Maputo Town Orienteering Association, Arnaldo Junior, then left Mozambique searching for a better future; this forced the reorganisation of the entire project.

Historical presence at the World School Sports Championships

We move forward in time to 2013, to see Mozambican orienteering rise out of the limbo into which it had fallen thanks to the presence of four students from the Casa do Gaiato of Mozambique at the World School Sports Orienteering Championships, held in the Algarve, Portugal. The Spanish Orienteering Federation had given its full support to this initiative, while the financial and logistical framework had the precious collaboration of the Mozambique Sur Foundation, a non-governmental organisation based in Madrid, along with lots of Spanish orienteers who had come together to guarantee this historical presence.

Although the Mozambican participation was unofficial - Mozambique is not a member of the International School Sport Federation – the four students Vasco João, Alexander Samuel Mungambe, Edgar Mário Felisberto and Joaquim Teresa Massinga had an extraordinary presence, put their ‘soul’ into all the activities, gave everything they had and were also true stars in this World Championships themselves. Able to withstand intensive training for a week beforehand from early morning until sunset, and in cold and rainy conditions, the “four musketeers” left the training camp well prepared for completing their courses in a dignified way. They competed unequally, of course, with athletes who had prepared for this competition for three or four years and participated in dozens of competitions to get there. But they managed to reach their goals to the full and were proud of their efforts and achievements.

Projects for the future

Although the Maputo Town Orienteering Association is active again – the Association’s Technical Director, Nuno Cossa, participated in this year’s O-Ringen Clinic in Sweden – the current development of orienteering in Mozambique is based mainly on the work of the Casa do Gaiato of Mozambique under the leadership of José Samper. For this purpose, José moves for one month per year from Spain to Mozambique, and hosts in Spain some people from the Mozambican school over a similar period. In Casa do Gaiato the work is directed and coordinated by Raúl Canovas, a Spanish volunteer coach and also, when availability allows, by the Austrian Gert Binder. It is work aimed towards two distinct groups, one with twelve youngsters born in 1998 and 1999 and the other with twenty youngsters born in 2000 and 2001. The technical training is often done using aerial photography, and this is one of their greatest needs. Volunteers are welcome cooperating as map-makers – the school will pay for the stay and accommodation, in the certainty that it will be an experience that will not easily be forgotten.

But Mozambican orienteering needs more than map-makers to help it grow and develop. This is a project that should “speak to the heart” of all who love orienteering. Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to see Federations that have more resources and traditions “adopting” a seriously committed Mozambican School? Right now a project is in preparation that intends to attract orienteers from all over the world, offering them excellent accommodation at Bilene Beach and asking, as a counterpart, for a share of their knowledge. This is part of a broader project designated “Orienteering Africa” with objectives that will appear very soon on the web-page www.orienteeringAfrika.com that is currently being created. And it would also be wonderful to see “young orienteers” from all over the world, even those with grey hair, teaching the students of Mozambican schools.

More work, better work

The programme for 2014 is already well structured and includes the selection in March of youngsters who will attend the Silva O-Camp in the Czech Republic and some events in Spain during the months of July and August. This exchange is organised under a scheme promoting integration through orienteering, coordinated by the Mozambique Sur Foundation and the Spanish Orienteering Federation and also involving Educational Centres in Spain. And at a time when Mozambique develops efforts to join the International School Sport Federation, it will continue the work towards selection of four young athletes who will represent the country in the 2015 World School Sports Orienteering Championships which will take place in Turkey.

The last words are from José Samper, orienteering’s “father” in Mozambique, gleaned from a letter written to Father José Maria, Director of the Casa do Gaiato of Mozambique, in the aftermath of the World Championships ISF 2013. Words which reflect all the work performed over the past twelve years, through the present and into the future. “Impossible not to feel happy and proud when, after four hours of competition on the mountains, I found one of the children close to the finish, exhausted, drinking water in a stream, but willing to reach his goal at all costs; impossible not to feel glad and grateful when I saw them rehearse, at the end of each day, their dance for the festival; impossible not to feel happy with the praise and affection of all nations and of the Portuguese people, during their passage in the inaugural parade and at the entrance to the stadium, me being more of a Mozambican myself; impossible not to feel happy with the care from my Spanish boys and girls towards my boys from Mozambique. This was and will be the incentive for the daily work of many Gaiatos. Dreams can come true!”

Joaquim Margarido

[See the original article on Inside Orienteering 06/2013, at http://www.orienteering.org/edocker/inside-orienteering/2013-6/InsideOrient%206_13.pdf. Published with permission from the International Orienteering Federation]

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Interview: Zoran Milovanovic and the South East European Orienteering Association

The end of 2013 is approaching very fast and it is with great pleasure that we receive Zoran Milovanovic, President of South East European Orienteering Association, for one of the last interviews of the year. Passionately, he helps us to understand the work that is being developed in the vast region, looking towards the future with confidence and optimism.

The Foundation Congress of the South East European Orienteering Association (SEEOA) took place in Belgrade last november. Can you tell me something about the importance of the event?

Zoran Milovanovic (Z. M.) - After the South East European working group was established, in 2008, we grew up to twelve country members. At the beginning of 2012, we started to think about the possibility of organizing a formal institution - our Association -, which would give us more possibilities for future development and acting in the different fields of our sport. This idea came true on 16th November 2013, with the Foundation Congress, in Belgrade, and Serbia will be the SEEOA’s seat for the next coming period until 2018.

What are the main goals of a regional project like SEEOA?

Z. M. - Actually, SEEOA is a sub-regional project. If you see a regional division according to the International Orienteering Federation, one region is Europe, so we have to consider us as a sub-region. It’s something like the COMOF (Mediterranean Orienteering Confederation) or the Nordic Countries Association. All of these organisations deal with orienteering from different perspectives and activities in their own geographical areas. The most important is that cooperation and work could be for the benefit of our sport.

So, you wish that SEEOA’s work can be the unifying element of all this work.

Z. M. - According to the Statute, the SEEOA is open not only to the countries already affiliate to the IOF, but for others as well. Furthermore, in our Association we can affiliate other national organizations which are recognized and do orienteering. So, this is a kind of recruitment step towards the IOF. We’ll accept and include them in all activities and finally we’ll help them in developing, as well as in a future IOF’s membership role. This is a very important goal. On the other hand, we would like to raise other potentials for our sport such as fund raising, marketing and Public Relations, which should result in a better visibility and options for sponsoring our sport. My dream is to attract very soon some big international company that operates in the whole region, and to sell them, for example, the main sponsor’s title of our future South East European Orienteering Championships.

How do you intend to solve the asymmetries between the federations, i.e., between the members where orienteering is well developed, like Italy, and those where our sport is almost insignificant, like Greece, for example?

Z. M. - It’s not easy to say. But maybe it won’t be necessary, just to manage how to do our way together. To listen to the questions and needs from all sides and then to find solutions, we hope this is the way and this is what we are trying to do within all our initiatives. In our work, we need to follow and satisfy all our members, developed and non-developed. Otherwise, we’ll see some of them leaving us. Sometimes, our needs are pretty much different one's from the others', so it’s not an easy task to deal with it. But, let me give you just a few good examples: We have Bulgaria, where Ski-O is very well developed. In the last two winters we made Ski-O training camps for our region in Bulgaria with the help of the Bulgarian Orienteering Federation. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see those many people attending the Training camps, but we will continue with these initiatives. We had a similar example this year, in Croatia, with Trail O. We all know that Croatia, even though it's a small orienteering nation, has a very developed and successful Trail-O team. With the great support of the SEEOA’s Vice President, Damir Gobec, and Ivana Gobec, we had two very successful Trail-O seminars, in Croatia and Turkey. These examples of cooperation and share of knowledge in our region raise our strengths and fasten our development.

In what way does the SEEOA articulate with the European Working Group and the International Orienteering Federation?

Z. M. - In this scope, we can see a lot of our members directly involved in the IOF works: Tatiana Kalenderoglu, from Turkey, and Maria Silvia Viti, from Italy, as IOF Council members, and also the Turkish Veysel Gule, in the European Working Group. Then, within several IOF Commissions and working groups, we have members and representatives from our region. I think that all of them, in a different way, are helpful for the IOF and to the development of our sport not only in the region. Our work strictly follows the directions and the IOF Rules, but we are also trying to do our contribution when important issues of our development are on the table. During the last few years, our work and some developing projects were also supported and recognized by the IOF. I would like to remind that some of the latest IOF members came from our region - Cyprus, Montenegro - and some others are knocking at the door, like Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and probably some more. So, we consider ourselves as a strong and active partner with the same goals: to have orienteering as a truly global sport, visible, attractive and included in the Olympic Games.

And what about COMOF? Can its projects also be the SEEOA’s projects or are we talking about two different realities here?

Z. M. - Yes, I think so. Even if, in some fields, we must consider very often, for example when we are talking about the projects for the Youth. But, still, the Confederation of Mediterranean Orienteering Federations has one very important strategic task, pretty specific: to involve orienteering sport into the Mediterranean Games (which will be held in Tarragona, Spain, in 2017), as well as into the newest Mediterranean Beach Games, of which the first edition will be held in Pescara, Italy, in 2015. And we all know how the Mediterranean Games and its movement is very well established into the Olympic movement. So I consider this step as one big step towards the Olympics as well.

We are talking about projects, you mentioned earlier the South East European Orienteering Championships... What kind of event is this one?

Z. M. - We started in 2011 with our first South East European Orienteering Championships, in Macedonia, and then the second one in 2012, in Turkey, together with the first South East European Masters Orienteering Championships. This year, in September, we had in Romania the South East European Orienteering Championships’ third edition and in 2014 it will be in Serbia and in Bulgaria, the next year. These events are now well established and more and more nations and competitors are coming for it. If you consider that this is not only an event anymore but really an international competition in our region, where some of our nations can afford to send national teams, then you see how important this can be. Not to mention that the format of these events take into account the control of costs as well, so we are proud to say that our organizers manage to prepare a four day program where the total costs for one competitor in a team is around 250-300 euro, including transport, accommodation, food, as well as entry fees. We have also adopted our Rules in order to encourage new nations to come and compete, because no one is returning home without points. We need to get our network together, looking forward to the results of our work and cooperation, and to find our space under the orienteering umbrella, which I think is the IOF. Of course, nobody should be concerned about their own autonomy, because this is not a question.

The World Cup 2014’s first round in Turkey, the EYOC 2014 in Macedonia, the WOC/WTOC 2014 in Italy, these are just three major events that will attract to the Eastern Europe, next year, the world’s attentions. How do you see the challenge of such organizations and what may it represent to the SEEOA and to the region?

Z. M. - And the fourth one is JWOC 2014, which will be held in the beautiful landscapes of Borovets, in Bulgaria, also in our region. In 2015, another country from the SEEOA region will host the EYOC, which will be Romania, in Cluj, not to forget that Croatia was recently approved as organizer of the WTOC, to be held in 2015, and the World School Sport Orienteering Championships will take place in Turkey, also in 2015. So it's a lot of work for our members in the next two years at the world orienteering stage. All of them are honored to host these major events, but they are also stressed out, knowing how important it can be for their future development and how important it is that everything goes normaly and at the highest level, like everywhere in Europe. In our Association, we do cooperate and try to exchange our best experts in a field of mapping, course planning, etc. Communication and cooperation, this is what we are trying to improve within our sub-regional work.

How do you see the level of your organizations?

Z. M. - A lot of orienteers from abroad leave us very positive opinions about orienteering in our countries, based on the participation in our events. They want to visit new places and try diferent terrains, but we need to provide good standards in our events, which is very important. I hope that more new countries from our region will come soon to the stage to be able to host some other major events. I am sure that orienteers from all over the world will like it. I already know that our events are very well known as very friendly, for the hospitality, and people have enjoyed the time spend in our events, such as for example: Velik Den and Brown Cup from Bulgaria, Kopaonik Open in Serbia, Istanbul 5 days in Turkey, Transylvania Open in Romania, Croatia Open in Croatia, as well as some events which recently started in Macedonia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, etc. Of course there are a lot more than those I have just mentioned, and we are looking forward to meet you, so you're welcome!

Would you like to share with us, as the President of the SEEOA, a little bit of your agenda for 2014?

Z. M. - We will start our work with the next Council Meeting, which will be held in Montenegro, from 14th to 16th March 2014. The agenda for this Meeting is already at the discussion table and we will deal with questions such as strategy directions, activity planning and budgets, the elections of the Secretary General, the Committee members as well as future meetings and Championships organizing. Annually we have two meetings, one at the spring time and another one during our Championships. This practice gave us good results and we will continue like this. Of course, between Meetings, there’s a lot of internet communication and work. Each spring meeting we are changing the host country. Thus, we are also trying to help different countries.

One of the main fields of our work will be the Youth projects. Lots of young people are going around us up to now, and we are not using them. We will pay special attention to this field in a coming period that we can make educational training camps for youth, each summer, seven days in different countries, with leaders and experts from our developed countries. I will be very committed to this in my work. Another important matter is to continue with our developing activities: seminars, different kinds of sport education, etc. The SEEOA should be a place for debating and proposing ideas as well as common initiatives to promote education, training and employment in the sport. We found this issue is the key for a future good work with the youngsters, to obtain for them a better quality of knowledge. These seminars – that were held the last three years in Montenegro, Cyprus, Bosnia , Moldova, Croatia, Turkey and Serbia – have brought to us some new countries and for some of them this was a new step forward. For this work, we need good sport managers, educated and licensed coaches, and this is something that we need to improve as well.

But for this you need money (!) ...

Z. M. - For most of our Federations, to finance orienteering activities are a real big problem, from different perspectives. Some of them, almost don’t have budget at all (Moldova, Greece, etc.) and to the rest of them, money is not enough, now matter how much it is, even for the strongest nations. But most of them haven't tried to use some other sources to finance activities yet, and here we will try to learn and to give some new experiences to all. The European Union has just opened one more door for us with an Erasmus and a project which, in the next term, will involve a lot of money. And this is only one solution, there are hundreds of different more, and not only by the European Union. Within different ideas, we will develop specially work projects, because now, as a legal institution, we can apply for various kinds of EU projects concerning sport. But not only in sport, but also in health, education and several other youth projects. This should become an important source of additional financing of our sport. With the network that we have at the moment, it’s much easier than if you are going from country to country alone.

In the past, we also had in our region a lot of help from WWOP and Peo Bengtsson, as well as from the Host Ost Legendarna organization, and we still do. They have done a really great job for orienteering development during the very well-known Autumn South East Tours, visiting our countries and helping us. Other good examples are organizations like PWT Italy and PWT Norway, with their activities and concept projects like MOC, MOC Tour, training camps, etc., which also influences and helps a lot the development of orienteering within the Mediterranean region. In the future, we will also try to use other similar initiatives and activities to help developing orienteering: institutional, non-governmental and private, especially in the new and non developed countries. I consider that we all have the same task, sometimes from different perspectives, but I am sure about a same goal: a better position for our sport worldwide.

How do you expect to see the SEEOA in the long term, let’s say within four years?

Z. M. - My primary concern will be to find somebody who will continue my work after that time (laughs). But yes, it is like that, because the next four years will be a hell of a job and a pioneer work in some fields of orienteering for a lot of our countries. Ideas and projects need to become reality, and this means a lot of work, but for all of us. The SEEOA Council members coming from eight countries and I hope that all of them are really ready to contribute and also to engage a wider platform for our work involving some other experience experts from their own countries for a common success. I like to work in a team, and our friendship in this region helps a lot to overcome the difficulties. We are working in a territory where at the moment exists about fifteen orienteering countries, with an orienteering population of more than 10.000 active orienteers from about 425 clubs and with more than 360 competitions. This is not the latest data, but what we have at the moment. So, you can imagine that we are a really strong orienteering population, ready to cooperate and to work hard for a better future of orienteering. And not only in our region.

Now that we are close to turn the page of another year, I ask you to make a wish for 2014.

Z. M. - First of all, I want to thank you, Joaquim, for your tremendous work as an orienteering journalist, not only here at the Portuguese Orienteering Blog, but also in Inside Orienteering and somewhere else. Your contribution, and the contribution of other photographers and journalists who are working voluntarily in our sport, are helping a lot our sport to become really visible. Thank you very much also for the opportunity to explain here, at your blog, what is happening in the South East Europe. I know, friends told me that I am crazy with my orienteering ideas, and I say yes, but lots of them I made come true. So, this keeps me moving on and with you, my friends, even faster. So let’s again do this job together as well! I wish a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all readers, followed by a lot of orienteering activities worldwide. Cheers!

Joaquim Margarido

[Photo: Delegates to the SEEOA's Congress; courtesy of SEEOA archive]