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Discussion: Latest update on Micro-O

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 27, 2005 10:55 PM # 
See the statement of the WOC 2006 web page.

Interesting that there are three conditions to be met for the micro-O to be included (so far it has only been authorized). Two of them have a deadline (end of this year) -- the development of rules, and the plans for development of widespread opportunities to practice micro-O. The third condition (a TV contract for comprehensive coverage) has no deadline. This is the one I would think they would want a deadline for.

Interesting also that the micro-O will be used for the final only (as I expected). Which is a pretty strong (though perhaps uninteded) statement about how flaky the whole idea is.

I'm also curious to see what actions the IOF's Foot-O' Committee takes to "ensure that widespread opportunities to practise MicrO are available prior to the WOC." Why do I think that "widespread" won't include any effort outside of Europe (or Scandinavia, or Denmark)?

The foolishness continues.
Aug 28, 2005 1:12 AM # 
MicrO is in final only because of organisational complexity, no other reason. Trying to put MicrO into 3 qualification heats being run concurrently would have been an organisational nightmare.

Your cynicism is well placed. However at least one of the non-European FOC members will try (and probably fail) and hold them accountable to that statement.
Aug 28, 2005 10:56 AM # 
The last two serious initiatives to "mediatise" orienteering were the introduction of middle distance and sprint orienteering. Despite initial cynicism, these have become well-established and much-loved among both elite and non-elite orienteers. The question is can the same happen with micrO? Or what was so great about sprint and middle?

The two latter races involved no change in basic principles, get all the controls in order as fast as possible. The change in emphasis was towards ultra-high-speed map-reading and fluidity, the spritual goals of orienteers :). Sprints, after a shaky "easy" period, developed new challenges of map-interpretation, no longer intricate contours but rather passages and stairways, multi-level orienteering where a route choice could depend on the control definition.

To run these events new mapping standards (and suitable terrain) for (urban) sprints were necessary, but essentially the organisational requirements remained the same.

What about micrO then? For major competitions at least, the "over-accurate" mapping at a 1:5000 scale should pose no problems. Finding suitable terrain will be a little harder, but also more than feasible (apart possibly from "vague" terrain??).

As regards training, without going into the 1:5 map change and penalty loop rigmarole, it is not too hard to organise - many clubs organise trainings with extra control markers, missing markers etc. IF you can put out controls orienteering at high speed then this format should not pose any problems.

But organisation of actual races??? Here one will run into huge problems I think - planning is harder, much harder (eg how long should the penalt loop be). Above all the electronic timing will be horrendously difficult - already where I am there are many clubs who refuse to put on a relay because the programming is way too complicated.... so regular events, not a chance.

The other reason I really cannot see this becoming a popular discipline is that its rules are not natural. It does slightly emphasise technique and map-reading ability, but not really any more than the current middle distance. Even supposing TG had to run a full set of penalty loops he would still probably win by a substantial margin, so does it really offer anything new? Perhaps in tactics when orienteers arrive in groups...

So, my prediction... one of three things...
1 the TV coverage is a flop (not likely, it's a cool sport and with the planned level of investment in cameras in the forest etc it should come off well), MicrO gets quickly forgotten as an(other?) IOF blunder
2 the TV coverage is a success, MicrO gets continued for a couple of years and then either IOF/TV interest fizzles out or switches to one or more of the present three disciplines
3 the TV coverage is a success, MicrO becomes a hugely popular TV sport that nobody does :) We get stuck with it, and whatever variants the TV companies decide to throw at us (an extra 50K kroner if the penalty loops involve bog-snorkling and fire-breathing locusts)

I'm reckoning on 2...

And btw, I ran MicrO at NOC, it isn't bad. It's really not at all bad. And in the arena afterwards watching later runners come through it was exciting. I 'm just not sure that it deserves to be a discipline, worthy of bestowing the title World Champion... will Thierry be called Middle Distance with a bit of Micr'Orienteering World Champion next year? World Cups sure, why not, TV coverage great, the rest...
Aug 28, 2005 5:58 PM # 
From what I heard, Norwegian TV coverage was guaranteed on the condition that MicroO be included in the championships. This means that the pressure to have it at WOC came from outside of O community. But this was only work of mouth, not fact...most swiss team members don't like the idea. I don't hear much support for the idea in general.
Aug 30, 2005 11:34 PM # 
Jon W:
I'm really interested in seeing the North American part of the "widespread opportunities to practise MicrO ..... prior to the WOC". I'm not sure that anyone here knows how to organize one, but maybe that will become clear by the end of the year. Also I wonder if anyone has an appropriate map, or how quickly one can be produced. I'm also concerned by some statements that I have read that say the event will only work with Emit and not Sport Ident e-punching. As far as I am aware nobody in North America uses Emit.

I've seen lots of posts on this subject and as far as I can tell nobody thinks that this is a good idea.

It will be interesting to see how the Norwegian TV company ensures "comprehensive coverage" in North America. If they are only giving coverage in Norway, an already strong orienteering country, I really don't see the point.
Aug 31, 2005 3:18 AM # 
First of all -- even though I'm both a Foot-O and a Trail-O competitor, I don't think much of Micro-O. That being said, one way to set up training events for Micro-O is to use time penalties instead of penalty laps.

I heard that at a Trail-O meeting at PNWOF they discussed sharing Trail-O and Micro-O controls. I'm not sure how well that would work, but I think it's worth a try.
Aug 31, 2005 9:54 AM # 
Now, also the TV contract condition has a deadline:
Aug 31, 2005 6:34 PM # 
I echo Jon-dub's 3rd paragraph - "extensive coverage" by Norwegian (and Danish) TV? That's going to have a tremendous impact in "small-town USA", Australia, China etc. Note that the press release referenced above also mentions the "re-birth" of a World Cup series in 2007.
Aug 31, 2005 7:57 PM # 
I'm pretty sure that S-F offers sufficiently complex terrain to hold a micro-O. The western part of the map (which will be used for the Short course trials) is being re-mapped at a fairly high level of detail to accomodate short course. If someone wanted to organize a Micro-O there the day after trials (Monday, 5/22/2006) I'm sure we could get permission to use the area.

As I stated in a previous post, we don't have anybody in SLOC that knows how to do this, but we'd be happy to host it (perhaps as a team fundraiser) if there was both interest and a competent course setter.
Sep 3, 2005 7:48 AM # 
With regard to organising a practice Micro-O, it shouldn't be that complicated to organise if all you want is to give runners experience in running one. If you want to do a real one for spectators, it's a little more complicated though.

For the courses, you just need to set a normal course in a detailed area. Then, in addition to the correct bags (for a small part of the course), you also put 3-5 additional wrong bags in close proximity to each correct bag (say, in a parallel reentrant, or in the top part of the reentrant when the correct one is at the bottom). This assumes of course that the map is 100% perfect, otherwise it's of course unfair.

If all you want is the training effect, you just need to put a different punch at each bag (use classic punching) and forget about the penalty loops, just add 30 secs for each mistake or something at the end.

So not that bad to do, you just need an extra 15 bags and punches and a really good map.

However if you want the real thing, you somehow need to know in real time whether the runners have punched the right controls so you can tell them how many penalty loops to run. I assume that's doable with SI, but seems a bit of a nightmare. Also all needs to be monitored, etc.

But if you just want the training you can quite easily set it up even for a local evening race. Assuming you have the right map of course

Not to say I agree with the decision, but don't want to over dramatize either (I'd love to plan it if I were there...)
Sep 6, 2005 3:46 PM # 
Take a look at this article on the Orienteering Today website. They got comments from many of the top Orienteers in the world. I thought it was quite interesting to see what the top runners had to say.
Sep 6, 2005 4:31 PM # 
From reading that article one gets the impression that the IOF honcho heads did not ask Hammer, Griz, Snorkel, or even Deviator for their micro opinions either. Btw, does Heli have the best name in orienteering or what? You have to admire her parent's foresight in naming her "Jukkola".
Sep 6, 2005 4:40 PM # 
What does Sarah think about it?
Sep 6, 2005 5:41 PM # 
Michel Plattini is a pretty good name too though.
Sep 6, 2005 6:39 PM # 
Anders Nordberg states that some runners think Micro-O is too much like "Jeopardy". Well, if they're right, that might solve the ratings problem. One of the longest running game shows in history, I believe. I wonder if Alex Trebek could be persuaded to count penalty laps.

One thing's for sure, lot's of folks are phrasing their response in the form of a question: "What the f@#* is this?"
Sep 7, 2005 2:40 AM # 
I wonder if J-J is going to throw a micro-O at us in the middle of the mega-O at Pawtuckaway this weekend. Of course, only the real controls would count for the 200 total....
Sep 7, 2005 2:43 AM # 
No. See new thread...
Sep 7, 2005 3:40 AM # 
>I wonder if J-J is going to throw a micro-O...

Crikey! With 200 controls imagine the number of penalty loops Eddie would have to do! (pre sprint finals trash talking officially begins)
Nov 22, 2006 8:28 PM # 
I just noticed this article on, here.

It's about what it takes to get TV interested in orienteering, and it's up there with laws and sausages.
Nov 23, 2006 3:03 AM # 
Yikes, some of that is downright scary. It's one thing to pick something for the X-Games based on "good television", but control sites? Definitely an interesting read.
Nov 23, 2006 4:16 AM # 
What really got me was this:

"At the NOC live coverage, we showed a real orienteering map on the screen with GPS tracks on it. We will never do that again! The GPS is perfect. But we need something that is easy to understand for the viewers, and an orienteering map is not."

It's clear this guy doesn't get it.

I imagine this guy outside my door, and I'm just slowly closing it, like Al Pacino in Godfather II.
Nov 23, 2006 4:33 AM # 
Perhaps what they need to do is show a GPS dot on a 3-dimensional representation of the map. Or even something most of my generation would understand: first-person shooter view, a la Catching Features.
Nov 23, 2006 4:59 AM # 
I actually agree with them on one point... I never thought showing GPS tracks on an orienteering map is effective. I'd imagine it seems pretty inscrutable to non-orienteers. And micro-O, well don't get me started.

We just need to integrate micro-O with GPS and hand out pajamas to everyone, I suppose, to really win people over.
Nov 23, 2006 5:01 AM # 
You have a point. Draping the map over the terrain (as in Google Earth) might be cool, as would the Catching Features view.

But my point is---If you're not showing the map, you're not showing the leg (or the course). If you're not showing the map, it's not orienteering. It's just some people running through the woods.

If this guy were putting Texas Hold'em on TV, he'd say, "You know---Cards are boring. We need a better way to represent to the viewers what is happening in the game. Let's just show the players faces reacting, and the way they nervously play with their chips. Now that's good television."
Nov 23, 2006 5:13 AM # 
I love GPS tracks on maps. Tiomila in 2005 during the long night---Wow.

I never expected to get excited hitting refresh during the WOC Japan events, waiting on people to register at the radio controls, but it was really exciting in some sick, demented way.
Nov 23, 2006 6:37 PM # 
I think it would be pretty neat if there was some sort of overhead view, 3D representation of the terrain with little arrows pointing to where runners are and where controls are, sort of like how they point out which cars are which in a Nascar race.You wouldn't necessarily need the map on the screen at all times, but you could cut to the map at some point a second option.
Nov 23, 2006 9:09 PM # 
It's clear this guy doesn't get it.

Alas, the guy is one of the few who does get it. Orienteers are in such a denial most (all?) of the time, as far as their gauge of the non-orienteering world's potential level of interest in televised O-events. As if it were enough to show the colorful blips on the screen and the world will knock on your door to watch those... yawn. Most would rather play Pac-Man than watch blips on their TV. Why watch blips if there's 24-hour porn on the satellite?

GPS tracking is such an atrocious misdirection of promotion/publicity resources—I was so happy it didn't fly at WOC 2001, but some keep coming up with new and better ways to resurrect it. What the public is interested in is seeing action. As in, jumps off cliffs and drowning in bogs. GPS tracking is nice for orienteers for sure, but that's limiting the size of the viewership to what it has historically been, i.e. not much.
Nov 23, 2006 9:17 PM # 
Depends on what you consider "getting it". If the objective is to have a lot of people sitting on their butts watching other people orienteer, because that means that sponsors will want access to those eyeballs, and will therefore pour money into the sport which can be used to sponsor athletes to train full-time, then maybe he does. That's not my objective, though.
Nov 23, 2006 9:26 PM # 
... will therefore pour money into the sport which can be used to sponsor athletes to train full-time

... and to fund development programs that bring more people into the sport so it that doesn't die when the last pajama-wearing purist sails off to the GO control in the sunset.
Nov 23, 2006 10:04 PM # 
Tim S:
The point about the GPS tracking is surely that it provides some context to how someone's doing between the action shots... It works for round the world sailing races at least.

However, i'd agree that it's maybe not totally critical for it as a TV spectacle. Rally driving TV coverage works pretty well with shots just taken at a few points on the course. Likewise adventure racing. How could we represent orienteering like this on TV? I guess by creating a number of "corridors" where each runner could be followed as they run into a control, through an "interesting" piece of terrain to the next control, and away... as all the while their time versus the fastest so far ticks away. However, without being able to highlight mistakes through the use of GPS it lacks enough context to make it distinguisable from a cross-coutnry time trial through the woods. To use the poker analogy, it's focusing on the player, without getting to see the cards!

Micr-O sections could help bridge this gap, by adding both "context", being a mini representation of some of what's orienteering's about, as well as being more visually interesting.

South London Orienteers had micro-O sections on the two elite courses at their main event last year (using SI btw).

You can read how they did it, here ..

the planner and controlers comments here...

and the key sections of the map and a the results of a feedback survey here...

Nov 23, 2006 10:09 PM # 
I think the cameras in the open heathery areas of the middle distance and relay at the Danish WOC did a great job of doing exactly what Vlad is talking about. And you could definitely see runners making mistakes.
Nov 24, 2006 1:26 AM # 
I think the TV dudes in the article definitely "get it" as far as making O sell on TV. But I think there has to be a compromise. I would imagine that viewers, even total non-orienteers, would be curious to see the map... but maybe not for very long or even that often. How they want to *show* the orienteering doesn't really bother me. It's the idea that they could influence the nature of course setting. I don't see a problem with TV dudes saying, "this is the kind of location we need to have a good TV control", and if the course setter can make it work, great. But I'd hate to see them pulling out their hair to make legs that work well on TV, but aren't very interesting for the orienteer.

I think I'm about to ramble. Need more turkey.
Nov 24, 2006 2:40 AM # 
Rally driving TV coverage works pretty well with shots just taken at a few points on the course.

Sort of true. Most rally coverage does include "virtual" shots which are computer animations of how the cars are doing head to head based on GPS data. That sort of thing could add quite a bit to orienteering. Sort of like route gadget in real time. Also, when orienteers go off course, it's somewhat less of a visual event than a rally car going into the ditch at 120KPH.
Nov 24, 2006 5:27 AM # 
Vladimir gets it.
Nov 24, 2006 6:19 AM # 
The news from Norway is basically that they are NOT using 14 cameras to show orienteering on television.

In Finland we've had 16 events shown on television durig the past three years. That is includng three Jukola-relays, being shown realtime through the night. Most of these were aired on a dedicated but low-budgeted sports channel (including the one in 2004 were I was event director) with a few shows on the major channels.

There are a few things learned, these being my personal comments:
1. We do attract non-orienteering viewers (as we did already when the Jukola-relay was broadcasted on radio). We do not get out to the masses as formula 1 but we do get out to the heavy-users of sports on TV.
2. The heavy-users want all the information, including the map and the decisive moments. (Map reading is apparently a general skill in this country and o-maps are not so special that they are illegible.) Information also includes runner bios, speculation on national team selections and eventual WOC prospects. Good commentators are probably the most important feature of a good show.
3. GPS has matured. By that I do not only mean the technology but also the process of using it responsibly. It is used to show decisive errors online and to track differencies on certain legs where there are route choises. (But this takes time and errors to learn).
4. The middle distance makes better TV entertainment than the sprint.
5. There are only a few events that attract media interest and give broader media coverage, boradcasted or not.
6. It is silly to think that one could attract a borader audience with a show that orienteers themselves would not be interested in.
Nov 24, 2006 6:59 AM # 
jwolff, very interesting comments, thanks!
I am curious why you say that middle distance makes for better TV entertainment than sprint. Can you elaborate on that?
Nov 24, 2006 11:38 AM # 
Boris, I basically think the event is too short. There is not time enough to build a story in it. You basically get people starting, reaching an intermediary post and then finishing with people still starting. Some runners are eliminated early but otherwise you have a number of runers within something like 20 s and when you see a certain runner approching goal you really do not know if he's among the best or the rest. Nor do you know why or why not.

In the middle distance it seems to be easier to follow the red group, first at the start. Then y're shown that Bodil missed the exit from the second post and ran down the hill i a wrong direction. You get the intermediate standings and you see that Minna was faster than Heli on the long leg, although the routechoice didn't look faster. (Some of it the heavy user doesn't get, but it is not taken to a degree to make him switch channel either.) In the end, there are more to tell and easier to develop a story in the race.

Having said that, it is of course always up to the course-setting. The Finnish sprint champs were shown on a national channel without map support and GPS. There was one excellent sprint leg that was very decisive for the race but I knew nothing of it during the broadcast. It would have been excellent on TV.

I would also add to my previous comment that:
7. Whith more money and more cameras you certainly get a better production.
Nov 24, 2006 12:27 PM # 
Being a spectator at WOC and now owning the WOC 2006 DVD I agree with jwolff. Middle is the most exciting for live TV. Sprint is best for the audience at the arena and long is best for post race editing and processing (linking cameras to the GPS tracking and results).

The real time GPS was hardly used in sprint. People move through controls so quickly that the 10? second refresh rate is too course. So it is too fast for live TV (you don't get the feeling of oreinteering) Long?, well the interesting route choices only become obvious once there are split times to see what people did. So middle is just right (without micro).

I was rather disappointed by the WOC 2006 DVD. With hours and hours of video and all that GPS tracking it could have been much more.
Nov 24, 2006 12:31 PM # 
Vlad responded to this
>... will therefore pour money into the sport which can be used to sponsor athletes to train full-time

with this:
>... and to fund development programs that bring more people into the sport so it that doesn't die when the last pajama-wearing purist sails off to the GO control in the sunset.

Yes Vlad does get it! So given that the USOF has a lot of money and are looking for ways to spend it. Perhaps spending money to have a big race covered on TV or a cheaper 20-22 minute promo video that could be slotted into 30 minute TV spots on sports channels or regional cable stations would be a step in the right direction.

Nov 24, 2006 1:00 PM # 
Tim S:
"Perhaps spending money to have a big race covered on TV or a cheaper 20-22 minute promo video that could be slotted into 30 minute TV spots on sports channels or regional cable stations would be a step in the right direction."

In that case, I wonder if in North America you could even achieve equivalent/better results using something more internet or viral-based (at least at first)? Orienteering is a "long-tail sport", and lower-cost video technologies, broadband, and stuff like Youtube, and broadband sports sites lower the costs of distribution to make the economics and benefits of covering Orienteering and reaching decent audiences in a TV-like format much more attractive.

Nov 24, 2006 4:07 PM # 
About micro-o concept. I don't get it. I have been thinking of it, but I just can't get it. No matter how hard I try.

They want to shoot drama and action with TV cameras. So why in a world they took away control codes? And changed rules in a way a competitor doesn't need to find the right one? Now a runner can not know if a control is right or wrong, so there is no need to panic. It's easy to stay calm and go on. And run those boring penalty loops. So where is the drama and action? No wonder they need to find mud pits.

If there is codes and you need to punch at the right control to get qualified, you would need to relocate and find your way to the right control if code isn't right. The penalty would depend on how long it takes to get to the right control - the natural penalty. And TV spectators would be easily see how much time was lost and they could clearly see difference between one runner spiking the right one straight away without any hasitating and an other runner hesitating or zigzagging between fake controls. You even might hear some strong comments there.

All we need is detailed place and some extra controls with wrong codes near enough the right one. Only rule change would be about how close together controls are allowed to be placed. And are we allowed to put fake controls to places we are not allowed to put normal controls (unmapped objects, midlle of nowhere ect). You might be able to arrange TV event like this with today's normal rules (without any special micro-O rules), if fake contols are far enough and at real control sites.

This format would be very close to typical O-ringen/Jukola style orienteering - you see lots of controls everywhere and most of them are not yours. Distance between two controls can be only 20-30 meters. So this might not be a big thing for most competitors.

And if you don't have TV cameras, you could arrange events like this without much extra work. Just few extra contols, that's all.

In my eyes they just kill all the natural drama and action of orienteering with current micro-o rules. But maybe I just don't get it.
Nov 24, 2006 6:21 PM # 
I REALLY don't get it. To me, it smacks of emphasizing the most inane aspects of orienteering at the expense of the most visceral and dynamic.
Nov 24, 2006 9:31 PM # 
from earlier discussions about which discipline is best for television/spectating etc - relay is without a doubt the very best for any type of spectating, its head to head racing which makes it exciting.
Nov 25, 2006 12:23 AM # 
Whether or not MicrO is good for television or for sport, it is an excellent training exercise for fine map reading. It's eye-opening how much it divides the field between those who breeze through it, and those who boom every one. (And I wouldn't have predicted correctly who fell in each category.) Exercises that highly isolate one skill are good training, whether that's route choice, fine map reading, or control flow. Bit of an aside from the podcasting discussion though.
Nov 25, 2006 12:43 AM # 
I was certainly critical of the way it was forced on the WOC's in what appeared to be great haste, but I've actually long been a supporter of micro-O (by long, I mean for the last 10 years, even before it had an official name). Don't knock it until you've tried it. It is very much orienteering, and when done well it is still the fast paced sport we love. What it penalizes is the practice of running loose into the control circle and just looking for white and orange. Those who correctly look for the feature won't notice much difference from what they always do.
Nov 25, 2006 4:06 AM # 
I might propose changing tact slightly. While at best this discourse has been revolving in the noumenal world, it's mostly been solipsistic, and rarely empirical. I think there is a time and place for each of these, but I'll borrow someone's economist hat for a moment.

I think we can formulate a testable proposition here. It would be super if we could just find out what people think. Let's ask them. The unwashed masses...

Do the micro-O and gauge to what degree people "get it." I am really intrigued to what degree Americans "get it," or indeed any population that doesn't have a clue what orienteering is. Isn't that somewhat relevant? It is nice to increase the penetration of markets like Finland, Norway, Switzerland, etc... and maybe that is what the IOF cares about, but strategically, is it worthwhile?

My hypothesis (OK, really a 'feeling') is that the low hanging fruit in the mature countries has been picked and the marginal cost of additional participants is likely high.

Yet, IOF's focus is just that.

Anyway, I digress. Back to experimental design. Let's introduce nationality as a control variable. And knowledge of orienteering. (*)

Show them the best darn micro-O possible, and then do a survey. Did people enjoy it? Did they watch it? Would they like to do it? Did they understand it? Etc.

If we are really ambitious, we can create a panel.

Of course, reality bites. We likely can't do a survey. We can reason, as we have been doing, in an a priori-like fashion, or alternatively, we can do some simple ex-post regression a couple years from now once we have invested some time and money in this venture to see what impact it has had.

Anyway, it is more fun to hypothesize. Of course, as decision makers (are we?) I think it is the responsible course of action to think through the consequences of our actions rather than benefit from the 20-20 vision down the road.

* This is where my own solipsism clouds my vision. I have little recent experience of TV, and more experience of Americans than I might care for, but I think micro-O might be a lead zeppelin. Sorry for the parochialism :)
Nov 25, 2006 6:37 AM # 
What it penalizes is the practice of running loose into the control circle and just looking for white and orange. Those who correctly look for the feature won't notice much difference from what they always do.

True. That is the only part I get. But you don't need these micro-o rules with controls without codes and penalty loops for that. You could simply place some extra controls with codes. So what is the point?


Other point. We should remember, "running into the control circle center and looking for white and orange" is one important and essential skill. You need to be able to take and keep direction, and estimate distance. And you need to have experience to decide when you should attack control like that and when not (and from how far), based on visibility, detail richness and control descirption. You know, normally it is enough you can see the object or flag. Some can do it well, some don't. I am afraid with micro-o we penalize people who are very good in winning some seconds here and there by simplifying things like this (like Tero).

Keeping map contact is just one skill. There is a lot more out there. Like being able to contour in empty ridge so accurately you can see flag when you hit the control area. We could put micro-o controls there with 1 m height intarval, lucky or very skilled ones could hit the right one and most Finns wouldn't find those controls at all (no big hills here, sono-one can contour here). Would make good training, but competition?
Nov 27, 2006 7:23 AM # 
I think it should be very easy to devise method for TV coverage for the sport that could become "popular", but at the same time, everyone needs to realize that it is not going to replace the mainstream sports, and likely, not even compare.
That said, one of the first major flaws I have seen in reading through all of this discussion, is the phrase "live coverage", Orienteering is not a sport that can be covered live. I think the best way to cover a race is to control it however you want to make it a good orienteering course, although marsh controls, running in streams that are knee deep and cliff jumping all make TV more interesting, so these can be incorporated some. Then give the runners the GPS trackers, and put out your cameras, have your cameras in these interesting spots. You can film along obvious route choices, trails, fences streams, and at the controls, or cliffs/hills that people are likely to come over, all with stationary cameras. Then put some roaming cameras just to watch random parts of the course, maybe runners making mistakes, and some that can follow a runner for a bit of a leg. The more cameras you can have the better. I understand cost now becomes an issue, so, a solution to this for smaller meets, ie in North America, you can use a small map, and have 2 courses set, the runners start on map A, then the final control has the map for the second part of the course. Then you can have cameras just scattered throughout and you are filming the whole course with fewer.
Then, at the end of the meet, you can interview some of the runners, top finishers, people expected to finish well, and some DNFers about their races.
Then you start editing, the first thing to do is to superimpose all of the GPS so that it shows all runners running the course simultaneously, this gives the head to head aspect that people want to see in sports, it is easier to compare 2 runners if you can see them both on the same map at say 20 minutes into the race, and one is at # 6 and the other is on the bottom of the map trying to find a control at the top, even if one started first and the other was the last start.
Then what needs to be done is editing the footage, you can have combinations of clips of runners on a leg, or you can follow a runner for a bit. And someone could also run or walk the course with a camera and tape the "best or better" route through the course and you can use these clips as some first person shots, or for commentary.
Then you need to sit down with the TV personality covering the event, and you need an experienced orienteer or two, maybe the course setter, maybe the winner, etc, make a panel of 3 or 4 different perspectives on the course.
Then to layout the show, you start with a short very brief intro of the sport, objectives, simple rules, a couple map symbols and terms, some of this can be ongoing too during the show. Then the show can start with just some clips from the start. If you now run through each control leg individually and give some recaps then this will keep people interested.
So to show a leg, first thing, show the map, point out the start, the control and the feature. Then have each commentator give a quick comment on the leg, controller could talk about why he chose it, the runners can talk about route choice, theirs or what they should have done, or something like that. Then, or during that you can show some footage of parts of the leg, and you can then show some of the GPS showing others route choices, talk about some mistakes, maybe follow a runner through, with video, and GPS and commentary. Do this for a few controls, then give a recap, through up some splits, but you can't do this too often, it would get boring if you gave splits every leg, you can show them all, but only do it 3 or 4 times throughout, and pick good spots, tricky legs or long legs, and commercial breaks.
As you start to show some of the finishes, there should be lots of good footage here, easy to get.Then you can cut to some of the interviews and post race finish area coverage. The public likes to see battle scars, injuries. But it has to be balanced with Smiling and happiness and the opposite.
Remember though, you have to be audience specific too, if you want to air this in Norway vs the US you need to look at your market, it will be different, Americans tend to have short attention spans, you have to keep the action up. Or if this is a training video, you need to look at the skill levels, do you want to spend more time on basics, or more on route choices and advanced techniques, if it is only for an orienteering audience they know more than the public, a lot more. Or if this is a promotional video, you need to show a lot more action, give a little more background, and show a lot of happy smiling fit, and also not so fit people enjoying themselves, and less injuries.
The other thing is look at time constraints, you will not have a non orienteer sit down and watch a show on it for 2 or 3 hours, hell, I wouldn't spend 3 hours watching it. But still time available can differ, so it needs to be divided in the proper proportions, you cant spend 10 minutes teaching people in the public to read a map on a 30 minute show, they are going to want to see the race and action for 60% or more of the air time.
One last important point, keep it simple stupid, you can't get really technical on a tv coverage there is a relatively small population of orienteers, and the rest are pretty much clueless when it comes to the sport, so, while some more technical discussion is needed to attract the orienteering population, who will be the repeat watchers, don't put a lot in, you will lose the lamen viewers.

I know this has been a long and detailed explanation of what i think should be done, but this discussion seemed to just be criticizing the way things were being done, wit nothing constructive really mounting, maybe this will start something.
But one last word about sponsorship, I have seen no discussion about any sponsors, other than the tv companies. Especially is money is an issue, someone needs to look into orienteering, outdoor, and adventure related companies, for sponsorships, if someone said to NIKE for exampe, we are have the WOC and it will be broadcast in these markets, for this amount of time, would you like to be a sponsor, they would jump on it for the media, to try and get a foot in our market. And when they agree tell them that if on top of their initial sponsorship, they can have a control marker say nike or something, while still keeping it with in the specs, if they will also pay for cameras to man that leg, it could even be reffered to as the nike control or something on the show. but make sure you go to any existing sponsos first so as to not make them unhappy and lose existing, loyal sponsors.
Nov 27, 2006 7:24 AM # 
Wow, that was epic, someone should pay me for that.
Nov 27, 2006 12:53 PM # 
One last important point, keep it simple stupid, you can't get really technical on a tv coverage

=> no GPS blips.
Nov 27, 2006 8:21 PM # 
Yukon King:
someone should pay you! Every single seductive device I've ever thought of for O-TV, and then some and more, you've pulled together. Nice! I have no elaborations to add at the moment cuz I'm overwhelmed by the epicness, but perhaps something will occur to me later...
Nov 27, 2006 8:49 PM # 
Americans tend to have short attention spans

No we don't, we just don't (as a nation) particularly care about orienteering. We're more than happy to sit through a 1-0 pitchters' duel in baseball, a 10-7 NFL game, or a 500-mile NASCAR event that is decided in the last 2 laps. The misconception that Americans can't handle a 3-hour event is at the heart of why US TV will never cover orienteering. I do agree, however, that if O on TV is ever to occur in North America, it needs to be edited. A carefully edited 1/2-hour show would have a much greater chance of success than a live broadcast.

The real problem, which hasn't been addressed in this thread, is funding. TV networks do not bid on niche events. Niche events bid on TV. To get coverage, you have to approach the network with sponsorship in hand. Nobody at USOF or COF has shown any inclination for lining up an on-air sponsor of such a show. Bowling, Bass Fishing, and Mud Buggy racing are on TV not becuase the producers think it's a great idea, but because the sports came to them with financing already arranged. Coming to them empty handed means being dismissed out of hand.
Nov 27, 2006 9:29 PM # 
Vlad, you say that a TV audience wouldn't want to see GPS blips on the map. Is that your opinion, or do you have evidence? The reason I ask is that I've gotten positive response to those blips with an O-naive audience, but the sample size is small. I worked with a bunch of kids (and a sprinkling of adults) in an after-school club a year ago. Obviously they were mostly actively engaged in navigation and various exercises. But sometimes I did have them sit and watch stuff. I showed various things, like videos ( and the British intro to orienteering video with the "turn your body round the map" singing), Catching Features, scale models, powerpoint presentations - and RouteGadget. They liked Catching Features, of course. There were a couple of surprises though - and one was how much they got into the RouteGadget animations.
Nov 27, 2006 9:35 PM # 
The thing with GPS blips is that a mass start is engaging even without a map. Anyone can see that the blue dot is ahead of the red dot, even if they have no idea what all the stuff on the map means. A solo (or interval separated) dot is not nearly as interesting. Unless the blue dot catches and passes the red dot while the red dot moves in wild circles.
Nov 27, 2006 9:45 PM # 
Makes sense.

I've seen TV coverage of downhill skiers where they overlay a previous skier with the current skier. Could do that with the blips.
Nov 27, 2006 11:10 PM # 
Ah yes, someone mentioned downhill. I would envision O-TV as a cross between downhill skiing and golf. Why? It's comparable to downhill because everyone has their own individual run, but in the end they are all compared head to head. I mention golf because the legs can be compared to holes each with their own unique challenges. I think you could still have good success filming "live" o-ing (is anything really live these days?) in a downhill skiing type format (show the competitiors at various intervals and their respective split times and analyze the splits via commentary). It would be cool to do fly-bys of each of the legs (with cable cams, helmet cams, etc.) and do a commentary on the various challenges and route choices faced on the various legs as they do in golf. Also, I think GPS tracking would work without the head-to-head display. The trick is, you have to highlight the optimal route, thus it's very easy to see when runners make mistakes.

PS Micro-O seems cool to me. I'd give it a shot.


-A short attention-span American :)
Nov 28, 2006 2:54 AM # 
Ok, let me elaborate on the short attention span comment i made. First off, I would consider Canada in the same category, and I am Canadian so I wasn't putting it out there in a negative way. And I said Americans because I am familiar with the kind of programming and sports that survive on tv here, and I know there are different types that of shows that survive in Europe.
Yes baseball racing and football all are popular sports in NA, but this has to be more attributed to longer histories, and the fact that people are much more easy to relate to these sports. Also the rules and techniques are widely known, and there is a lot of "action" in these sports, even if it is just watching cars drive in a bloody circle, people that like racing call this exciting. But no one here is going to sit down and watch people talk about people running in the woods for 3 or 4 hours anywhere, and no one i know that has no experience in the sport would sit and watch it for 30 minutes, unless it had a lot of exciting bit, the cliff jumping marsh running etc. Even some orienteers would be bored by this.
As for the GPS blips, there seems to be a lot of negative thoughts towards them, I have not seen the coverage, but I tend to think they were not done in the right way in the last one. If the blips, as i said before were all moving at the same time, and were set so they started simultaneously it would make it seem like more of a race, very little live footage can make orienteering seem like a real time race, but if you make all the blips start at the same time and run them simultaneously, you can see many things:
a) It seems more like a race, you can see who is in the lead, by knowing where the next control is and where everyone is. And you can see who is way behind.
b) You can compare route choices, show how someone got into trouble one way, or how slow the green forest was vs the trail.
c) You can compare runners mistakes, You can see where a runner came a knoll and thought he was on the next one, but another runner knew exactly where he was.

But with the pips, a few things must be adhered to, they should not take up a large percentage of the time, and you should not put 200 racers pips on, put say the top 5 or so runners, and maybe some other big name runners that DNF'd or had bad races, and clearly show who is who. But there should be no more than 5-15 pips.
Also as it starts to get more coverage, it woul be better to start building some profiles of the athletes that are winning/doing well often, and are attending a lot of races, then you could focus a little more on those runners in the coverage. Everyone knows who Tiger Woods is, in part because he is a great golfer, but mostly because he has so much airtime, his airtime came from his skill, but without that publicity he would not be well known outside of golfing die hards. If you ask someone who Tiger Woods is, it is likely they will know, and if he is on TV people are more likely to stop and watch for a minute or 2 to see his shot, or hear him talk. But if you asked the same person who Jim Blow No one who made a nice shot last week that was on tv for 0 seconds was they wouldnt have a clue, there are thousands of pro golfers and maybe 20 are well known, that is what would have to happen eventually, people like to track an athlete, or a few athletes, and see coverage with them, but if you cover 10 different runners every event, then you won't get a stable fan base. But it would still be important to include the medallists.

If anyone wants to pay me for this insight.......haha
Nov 28, 2006 5:55 AM # 
Assuming the premise of this discussion is still that we would like to attract TV viewers in order to get ad revenue:

There's a pretty standard way to find out how successful various formats of a TV broadcast would be, namely market research using focus groups.

For as much as your arguments are all intelligent and well thought out, I don't think they are as useful as empirical research.
Nov 28, 2006 12:59 PM # 
Yes baseball racing and football all are popular sports in NA, but this has to be more attributed to longer histories, and the fact that people are much more easy to relate to these sports. Also the rules and techniques are widely known, and there is a lot of "action" in these sports

Sounds like orienteering in locales where it has received television coverage ...

Americans tend to have short attention spans

Where does this come from, anyway? I personally don't buy a cultural or biological basis for these sorts of things among a group. It just always seems to be words that people say, and I've always wondered where it comes from.
Nov 28, 2006 3:29 PM # 
Current technology allows to pack micro-cameras and flash memory devices in tight 50g packs at very low cost. Every competitor can wear one during competition so you would instantly get hours and hours of footage ala Thierry's. Combined with stationary cameras one can have enough material for good show. But face it, ladies and gentlemen, orienteering is percieved to be sport for geeks thus will never attract real mass interest unless sponsored by government and/or big business.
Nov 28, 2006 3:37 PM # 
Orienteering is percieved to be a sport for geeks? By whom? Most people have never even heard of Orienteering. We have the opportunity to make them percieve it however we want since any marketing or promotion we do will be to fresh, open minds.
Nov 28, 2006 3:54 PM # 
John, open your eyes and look around at yourself and at your O friends :) Orienteering requires certain kind of geek mind and it always will be. Same as with computer geeks and doctors :)
Nov 28, 2006 4:31 PM # 
Seems to me that geeks are a pretty savoury market...affluent, keen to try new things, love to buy fancy toys. Play it up, not down. :-)
Nov 28, 2006 4:56 PM # 
""Americans tend to have short attention spans."

Where does this come from, anyway? I personally don't buy a cultural or biological basis for these sorts of things among a group. It just always seems to be words that people say, and I've always wondered where it comes from."

Maybe Randy would like to rephrase that. I don't buy the idea that individuals develop short or long attention spans unaffected by their cultural milieu.

As to whether it's true or not that Americans have short attention spans, there's no shortage of people who believe it to be true. The idea has at the very least achieved wide enough acceptance to be the basis of humour - see
Nov 28, 2006 5:01 PM # 
Hmmm... thought I understood how the clickable links worked but apparently not. Also not sure why AP doesn't want to let me edit the post.
Nov 28, 2006 6:23 PM # 
>pack micro-cameras and flash memory devices

Cool idea... So Sergey if there had been a camera mounted on you during the 2004 NAOC Day#2 what would it have shown?

65 minutes of my butt, thats what!

Nov 28, 2006 7:19 PM # 
I don't have the attention span for that.
Nov 29, 2006 1:44 PM # 
I don't know about audience attention spans, but certainly the styles of TV sports coverage differ between Europe and the US.

Consider the continuous direct coverage of the Olympics typically given in Europe versus the US compressed prime-time formats with emotion-filled back-stories and less coverage of the full range of sports.

Or I was once in Ghana watching reports on the Giro d'Italia. BBC sport gave 15 minutes continuous coverage to each day's events; CNN also gave about 15 minutes but spread over an hour and interspersed with other sports stories.

Or even simple news programs. European news typically consists of just a talking head, while US news coverage will much more often have ticker-tape banners below (and sometimes above as well) reporting on entirely different matters.

I don't know if the US style reflects shorter audience attention spans, some other marketing imperative, or different regulatory environments. I think it's harder to pay attention to the main story with all the distractions US TV typically offers, so it could be argued that American audiences have better concentration.

Nov 29, 2006 1:55 PM # 
Tim S:
If you haven't watched every ball of a five day cricket match that ends up in a draw, you're not even in the game on the attention span front.
Nov 29, 2006 3:49 PM # 
Cameras on competitors would definitely expose strange things happening in woods o<|:o)
Nov 30, 2006 9:58 AM # 
I have only occasional experience from American television and probably more experience from European television than what is good for me. However, about the attention span, you have to realise that a typical American half-hour television show is aired in 23 minutes in my country. If you take the American news and reduce the time for annoucing what will be shown when we come back from the commercials, there isn't much time left. Thus all issues are presented at the same time, using various split screen techniques...

To the issue... j-man raised two good points:
1) We have very little evidence from how o on TV is accepted and to the extent we have any evidence we tend to pick out singular bits of it that support our prejudices.
2) We are tapping into very different markets. In Europe we promote o on TV, not to be on TV but to get more visibility, attention and recognition overall, and eventually more money into the sport. There is a trend that newspapers only write about the events that will be shown on TV and not about the results from yesterday, as everyone has already seen the game on TV. (Although I'm quite certain than those that advocate for more media attention have no clue about what it will bring and will thus be completely unprepared for the backlash...)

Orienteering on TV has, with the exception of occasional Jukolas and WOCs, always been post-race edited shows. However, in order to be of any interest to anyone, there has to be some lement of actuality in the broadcast, thsu it is shown on the same day as the race whioch gives very little time for any significant editing.

Dec 2, 2006 10:09 PM # 
I love to watch curling on TV, unfortunately here in the states we have to wait for the winter olympics and then be willing to get up at 2:00 in the morning to watch it. Guess I need to move to Canada eh?
Dec 2, 2006 10:51 PM # 
"John, open your eyes and look around at yourself and at your O friends :) Orienteering requires certain kind of geek mind and it always will be. Same as with computer geeks and doctors :)"

But how much of that is due to the fact that it is presented as a "geek sport"? What if we took the direction that Adventure Racing did and present it as an extreme / adventure sport. Ever watch the Crazy Choice video from "The Team"? That video shows an important aspect of the sport that only people who have already been drawn into the sport by the "geek attraction" get to experience.

What would happen if we attracted people to the sport with it's extreme qualities, not it's "geek" qualities? Geeks aren't the only ones who will enjoy the "geek" qualities of the sport either. Every sport has those strategy / skill aspects, it's just that they present the exciting aspects and save the "geek" aspects for people to discover as they get involved in the sport.

I think we could be much more successful drawing people into the sport if we present it's exciting side to the public and save the "geek" qualities for keeping them interested after the initial adrenaline rush has worn off.

While there is no way to really know unless we try other approaches to the public image of the sport, I have a strange feeling that Orienteering may appeal to a broader audience than the "geek" crowd.
Dec 2, 2006 11:44 PM # 
That video shows an important aspect of the sport that only people who have already been drawn into the sport by the "geek attraction" get to experience.

Excuse me? Reality check...

I don't know what you've experienced, John, but in over 1000 courses, I've yet to do anything like what's in that video. Crazy Choice is about 98% fiction. Orienteering isn't like that at all, and if you try to televise an actual competition, it certainly isn't going to look anything like that. If people come into orienteering expecting to run through the woods at those speeds and jump off of huge cliffs, they're going to be disappointed. Heck, I've had to take up hang gliding to get that jumping-off-cliffs rush...

(You also have to kind of understand maps to be able to understand the ending where they show the route, and explain that going around is faster anyway.)
Dec 3, 2006 2:59 AM # 
"Crazy Choice is about 98% fiction. Orienteering isn't like that at all"
So? Do people drive SUVs as shown in ads? Do they slide cars around as on TV?
Dec 3, 2006 10:11 PM # 
That video would be very cool to me without the ending cliff thing and/or without the map (even if that part isn't as easily dropped.)

Maybe I find it cool because I am a geek?
Dec 4, 2006 12:16 AM # 
j-man, it's cool because it's bad ass. How often are geeks considered bad ass?
Dec 4, 2006 12:42 AM # 
Are you calling Wyatt a geek?
Dec 4, 2006 2:23 AM # 
Can I win the way this thread is going?
Dec 4, 2006 2:40 AM # 
It's a great flic! Like the ski movies. How many people ski off cliffs like the all the dudes in the ski movies? Or blow up the bumps like they do? But it sure draws interest.
Dec 4, 2006 3:09 AM # 
I'm not dissing the video, I like watching it, too. But if somebody were to say:
Car commercials show an important aspect of driving that only people who have already bought cars to drive their kids to soccer practice get to experience.
Warren Miller movies show an important aspect of skiing that only people who have already been drawn into the sport by the spiffy clothing get to experience.
then I'd have the same reaction.
Dec 4, 2006 3:24 PM # 
John definately overstated the "important aspect" part, but the point is, to draw people to something, you have to advertise, and your ad has to be exciting and promote interest. The Crazy Choice video would probably not do to well at a PTA meeting, but if shown to an adventure racing or outdoor college club, it might induce some members to give it a try.
Of course they may be disappointed when their are no cliffs and lakes along the way.
Dec 5, 2006 4:11 PM # 
Tim S:
Thought you lot might be interested in this, which seems like it fits the bill for both spectators and (super) elites

This discussion thread is closed.