Wednesday, 6 August 2014


Many things have already been said about the individual sprint in Venice and about how the Danish success was possible due to massive preparations. Some people have questionned if these kind of preparations are taking away the essentials of orienteering: "navigating in unknown terrain", and it is a good question. 

But as I see it, actually these opportunities to prepare via pictures from the internet, are making the competitions more fair than usual, because then the aspect of "home-advantage" is not so big anymore. Everyone have the opportunity to prepare for the challenges, not only the ones who have been in the terrain earlier, or even lived there as we have seen earlier.
But why not then open the embargoed area for "tourism" as we have seen several times (including WOC 2015 in Scotland)? Another good question, but then it would just benefit the nations who can afford to send their runners on several "tours" (or even stay) in the embargo = not very fair. Everyone can use the tools on the internet without costs, and I can inform that the Google Street-view pictures are quite good in the 4 Scottish towns... :)
In Scotland next year they have embargoed 4 different towns, which is good because it makes it more difficult to know exactly what to expect. But it's more fair for everyone. I think they should also have closed bigger parts of Venice, or even other town/cities to make it more difficult to prepare for the runners.

Still everyone are permitted to enter the embargoed town in Scotland, just not with a map, running or routechoice-testing, and I don't really understand why it's necessary. It will just give the big and rich federations and runners living close to a bigger advantage, because they will probably travel more to Scotland than the smaller federations...

Anyway I like that the organizers now have tools (artificial fences), to make the challenges bigger and more different from what the runners have prepared for. Actually I would have liked more fences in Venice, because a lot of legs were quite boring, and I already knew the best routechoices. Of course everything has it's limits, and the limits were tested in World Cup Sprint in Imatra, where the use of artificial fances was too massive making some legs too difficult, and the question of succes more based on luck than skills.

What do you think?


M.Lerjen said...

I think orienteering (".. in unknown terrain") has an almost unsolvable paradoxical relationship to professionalism ( "minimize the unknown by all legal means"). This became evident as sprint became an urban WOC discipline in 2003.
Fences are the attempt to reinforce the aspect of "unknown" but the effect of it will not last long as a professional naturally starts to consider fences in his/her preparations.
Allowing "tourism" is stretching the genuine concept of orienteering to its limits under the fig leaf that we in neusprech talk of embargoed area, while it is actually open and MUST be visited.
As a one time measure one might think of embargo an area and then surprisingly holding the competition in another area, but on the long shot the only solution for the orienteering-profesionalism paradox would be to strictly embargo either twenty or no area. This is most likely not gonna happen, so we just will have to live with the way it is now, having a WOC with two disciplines we see as "second class" (Tue, you already KNEW the best route choices).

Zbigniew Malinowski said...

You did the best possible. I think everybody appreciate Dannish team effort and results.

But in fact this is not a question of what is fair and what isn't. It's a question of what orienteering is.
We are trying to make orienteering "attractive", "TV Sport", trying to make it to Olympic Games, make it handicapped-friendly, we try many other actions. But we have to think if we are not killing orienteering by doing all of this.
How far will we go to be more popular? Will we run blindfolded? Naked? Drunk? All these in the same time? It could make us much more popular, I guess.

If that's moving up then I'm moving out.

Lars Jørgensen said...

Sprint has become a completely different discipline than what I understand by orienteering. Therefore promoting orienteering in the form of sprint is in my opinion a misunderstanding.
The true nature of orienteering is one person’s challenge is finding the best possible way in a natural environment and running it fastest possible. It is a little wild, rough and dirty which actually catches the trend in sport today, so that ought to be very interesting both for participants and the public (if you can show them what we are doing)
I have great respect for the best runners in sprint, but I think that is should not me mixed with forest orienteering. It should have different championships – not at the same time and place.
It is a like volleyball and beach volley. To make volleyball more popular they created beach volley, where women must wear smart bikinis. It looks good – but did it make normal volleyball more popular – I don’t think so. It is another sport – different time, place and rules.
And then a short opinion on if sprint is public friendly. I don’t really think so – following a sprint on a GPS map for a non-orienteer doesn’t work, and standing there seeing a person run by is not very interesting either. It seems to be even more complicated then following a normal orienteering event. I believe that you can make better TV from a forest orienteering event, but it is difficult and it does require a large set up with several cameras and GPS.
So don’t try to develop sprint to make orienteering more popular. If the runners want this new sport then develop sprint for them and promote it for it’s own reason. And then you can make the rules you want for sprint. The ultimate development is probably an artificial course on a stadium – easy to see, equal preparations.

dries said...

Very interesting input of Lars.
I completely agree. Sprint is a different sport - different orienteering skills are required and speed is more important. Maybe it will become a bigger sport than forest orienteering. If you want to make it more interesting for TV - make it only mass start or chasing start events.

In 2005 like Tue I prepared for sprint race as well - having a lot of time I started from a pdf of an old map and converted it to sprint-map. Despite that preperation I didn't make it to the final ;-). Probably because it was more a forest sprint and I made 1 big mistake.

But in my opinion the success of a sprint should not be in the preperation of making the map. It should be in route-choice preperations and execution, so why not give the map to everybody in advance.

I am in favour of some fences - to make mapreading necessary.

MVB said...

Like this I don't think we can call it real orienteering anymore and I completely agree with Lars as well, it's just a different sport. As far as the artificial fences go, I think it's ridiculous. If the area is not interesting enough without them, then choose a different, more interesting area.
Why isn't it possible to keep the place of the event a secret for everyone untill the very last bulletin is released? Just some general information about % urban/field/forest and the contours should be given. This way it's the same for all the competitors. A city sprint is a city sprint and preparation should be the same for all of them. Obviously for a long and middle it's different, runners should have an idea of what is waiting for them as trainings depend on this.

Congrats on your great performance though.

Unknown said...

Interesting comment by MVB. None embargoed areas for sprint, nobody knows where it will be or what to prepare for!

Anonymous said...

The Danish team crossed moral and ethical boundaries and entered into the realm of cheating. I'm sure other teams did a similar thing too, if perhaps not to the same extent.Like Lance Armstrong, you just cheated better than the others

Anonymous said...

I apologise for the above post - I am a complete dickhead for saying that. Sorry

Anonymous said...

Rather than resorting to cheap insults, as per the comment above, can I refer you to the IOF's rules for orienteering, which state:

26.5 Any attempt to survey or train in the competition terrain is forbidden, unless explicitly permitted by the organiser. Attempts to gain any information related to the courses, beyond that provided by the organiser, is forbidden before and during the

26.6 The organiser shall bar from the competition any competitor who is so well acquainted with the terrain or the map, that the competitor would have a substantial advantage over other competitors.

Clearly these rules were contravened and hence by definition cheating occurred - the terrain was surveyed in breach of 26.5. Under 26.6 the organiser should have disqualified the Danes (and no doubt some others) as they had such familiarity with the terrain through their google mapping and research that they had a substantial advantage over others. The Danes have admitted it themselves.

Anonymous said...

I think pretty much everyone interprets 26.5 to mean you are not allowed to conduct any survey while physically present in the competition terrain, or train in the competition terrain. The Danish team did neither.

The use of old maps of areas to set 'armchair' training courses has been going on forever in all disciplines. The practice of drawing maps of sprint areas which have no previous O maps, using google or whatever else is available, has been going on ever since sprint became a WOC discipline - quite openly - no one (except anon) thinks this is a breach of the rules.

And if you did change the rules to explicitly forbid the practice it would be totally unenforceable.

Anonymous said...

in any case - the comparison to Armstrong is out of line. If it weren't so ridiculous it would be offensive.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me the purpose of 26.5 and 26.6 is to protect the integrity of the event and indeed the definition of orienteering which, if I recall correctly, refers to navigating in "unfamiliar terrain". Lawyers could argue about the language in 26.5 - whether this clause has been breached might depend on whether it should be interpreted as "Any attempt to survey(,) or train in(,) the competition terrain is forbidden".

Either way there can be no argument that under 26.6, some competitors were so well acquainted with the terrain as to have a substantial advantage and should have been barred from the competition. This is clear.

The argument that 'everyone has been doing it' does not wash. It is a breach of 26.6 and arguably 26.5. Deliberate efforts were made to break the rules, and the Danes did it better than others. Again, the Armstrong parallel - just because many are doing it does not make it right (a point which Lance still fails to grasp). (And, for those who appear to have been easily offended, in drawing attention to the similarities I'm not, of course, suggesting the seriousness of the offences were in any way similar).

So I stand by my view. Rules were deliberately broken. This is the dictionary definition of cheating. If you don't agree with me - fair enough: that's your prerogative.

Anonymous said...

OK you've convinced me.

Tue, you and Sören should return your medals immediately.

Anders Bachhausen said...

The "navigation in unfamiliar terrain" formulation has not been a part of the description of orienteering for some time now.

IOF's competition rules 1.1: Definitions:
"Orienteering is a sport in which the competitors navigate independently through the terrain. Competitors must visit a number of control points marked on the ground in the shortest possible time aided only by map and compass. The course, defined by the location of the controls, is not revealed to competitors until they start."

Here, the unfamiliar part is limited to the course and controls.

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's a crazy suggestion: why not make up a completely new map?

Just choose an open area with some interesting contours (just an open field or for example military airbase would do) and let an experienced team create a new map. With fences and printed banners you can easily create the impression of a village. You keep the map as a secret and just give some map samples and detailed descriptions of terrain. Like this, it should be equal to all runners.

But it has other advantages: for the public, tv and sponsors u can always create the best environment to follow the competition without losing any sportive value.

Is this (financially) unreachable or undesirable (for an orienteer)? Or is it an unexplored way to get orienteering at the Olympic Program?


Lars Jørgensen said...

I think it is unacceptable to write strong opinions and accusations and then being anonymous.

And I think "anonymous" is totally wrong.

It has always been acceptable to use old maps and other public available information to mentally train route choices - even in forest orienteering. And in sprint it has been used at lot to do that for years.
So no rues have been violated.

It seems like "anonymous" are not familiar with eliteorientering or is a bit jealous?

Stefano said...

I think the Danes didn't cheat in any way in Venice, and I had been very happy for the chance to comment at the microphone the run-in of Tue and Soren in Venice, shoulder to shoulder with the great Per Forsberg.
Comments are very interesting, but I think that the argument "keep the place secret!" is not feasible.
Maybe I'm pessimistic by nature, but I wonder how it's possible to keep this "best kept secret" in a community of people as small as that of orienteers (compared with that of other sports).
Just to give some examples: the course setter of sprint relay at WOC 2014 is the husband of one of the athletes
of the Italian national team (which did not run for that reason the sprint relay);
both are friends, both are people of great seriousness and professionalism which personally I would have given
this secret, but we really think that the work of the coursesetter of WOC (which doesn't involve a half-a-day routine but weeks of work) would remain secret for a long time?
How to keep secret the location where the television crew must work with the course setter and plan in advance the most part of the scenarios (even the position of the controls, in some cases, to determine whether this position was televised attractive), where so many people is involved to plan how to build the arena, how to find the way to bring all the necessary structures on site?
I am convinced that keeping such a secret would not feasible,
and this would generate an excessive number of "plans B" in the event of a security leak or mere suspicion ...

Anonymous said...

And if the place for the competition is just keept a secret, without embargoing any areas, a nation, under preparations, could get lucky and train in the competition city 10 times before the competition, and therefore have a really unfair advantage.
I dont think having great preparations is an 'unfair' advantage because anyone can prepare great. But if you want to make sprint orieentering more about skills during the race, which may be more exciting, and less about who prepared the most,I think you have to atleast embark a couble of cities, when you want to keep the actual competition city a secret.

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