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Discussion: WOC Bibs - names instead of numbers please

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 23, 2016 1:29 PM # 
Names on bibs is so much more useful than numbers. Time to switch to what is more common. We are more and more a visual sport - with lots of photos and even some TV.

Numbers may have been useful once for people watching in the stadium who didn't have access to internet to check start times, or to tracking to show them who started when. But no more.

Benefits the sport as it generates more recognitiono for top athletes, which increases interest (every sport needs its easily recognizable stars). Also this can help the TV commentators.

I note that at WOC this year they are wearing numbers on their bibs. But the live splits don't even show that number (even though there is a column for it!).

Is there any point to having numbers on bibs?
Why not make the change to names?
Aug 23, 2016 1:44 PM # 
Numbers on bibs are still important for the timing crew. Numbers and names is best.
Aug 23, 2016 1:51 PM # 
I can see at local events that they're useful for the timing crew. But I don't see how it helps the WOC timing team? Maybe a small number on the corner of the bib ;-)

Or what about names on the front, numbers on the back - maybe that would solve any issues
Aug 23, 2016 2:01 PM # 
Much easier to pick out a number in large letters than a name in small letters (or convincing, for example, Anastasia Denisova or Sladjana Jovanovic to wear a 3' wide bib :p )
Aug 23, 2016 2:02 PM # 
Numbers have to be on front to be useful. A forward facing ID camera can pick up numbers as they come into the finish to match up to a photo finish camera across the line. We don't time to an accuracy in orienteering that needs photo finish though, but a ID camera is still important for matching up timing impulses to people. Chip timing helps a lot here, but read rates are not 100% and a professional timing crew will run a photo beam as the primary timing line with chip timing as an identity source for that.
Aug 23, 2016 2:24 PM # 
For an event the size of WOC, names should be fine for photo identification (and for that matter, faces would suffice). This isn't a large marathon or the O-Ringen.
Aug 23, 2016 2:47 PM # 
In my mind all of these considerations are trumped by having runners easily identified by people on photos after the race, on magazine covers, on TV, on the podium, even during the race, etc.

The timing - I kind of see it, but if we're going on automatic number recognition then I'm pretty sure we could also identify the name with software too. And anyway, couldn't we just put the camera so it points at the back of the runner?

For long names - lots of Olympians have long names too.
Aug 23, 2016 3:08 PM # 
For example, the commentary was just...

"Number 46 has just come through. That's " then says the name

With names on the bibs the commentary could be so much better - they wouldn't have to cross reference the number to the name and it would give them more time to say something interesting - like checking on the splits display to see how they are going
Aug 23, 2016 4:01 PM # 
But also, if the commentator knew what was going on, for example, had someone watching the GPS, he would know who those people were.
Aug 23, 2016 4:18 PM # 
That's because GPS tracking uses names, not numbers ;-)
Aug 23, 2016 4:56 PM # 
Just to be devil's advocate: at the arena today with no start list in my hand I found the numbers very handy for working out who had caught who in the packs or giving me a rough idea of how many minutes away to expect the next runner I was watching for
Aug 23, 2016 5:06 PM # 
Here's why: The final entries are only made at 12pm the day before the race, with a team leaders meeting that evening to hand out start lists. This doesn't give very long for printing, even if the numbers were given out in quarantine the next day.

So having names and numbers on a single bib is unlikely. However, names on front and numbers on back would work.

If you have just name or just number then you're still gonna have to look at the start list to work out either who the are or how they are doing. Perhaps if you are within earshot of arena commentary and they are doing alright then they will be announced.

I doubt many people can memorise a start-list, I think a few more know who runners are...
Aug 23, 2016 9:33 PM # 
Last year I ran "Morokuliens 2-dagars", a 2-day event on the Sweden-Norway border with a chasing start. When I arrived at the start the second day there was a bib hanging there with my starting position, name and start time on it. Must have been some kind of magic...
Aug 23, 2016 10:10 PM # 
I'm not saying it's impossible, but organisers have probably got more important things to do than to arrange for printing to be done in 6 hours.

Name on front, number on back would work best I think
Aug 23, 2016 10:20 PM # 
The marketing value to the IOF is worth the cost and hassle. I concur with edwarddes that numbers and names are needed, especially for common last names. Or possibly make a name bib for everyone with a blank spot to attach a smaller number each day. Or do the triathlon thing.
Aug 23, 2016 11:00 PM # 
For long names. Surely the solution is to DQ anyone with more than four letters.

Revised Results
1. Kemp (CAN)
2. Alm (DEN)
3. Orr (GBR)

Anyone see any problem with that ;)
Aug 23, 2016 11:11 PM # 
Aug 23, 2016 11:21 PM # 
Surely you could have picked a photo with a Canadian winning?
Aug 23, 2016 11:27 PM # 
Thanks everyone for the comments. I'm actually serious about this, and appreciate getting the feedback. Here's my summary of who the bib information is for and whether that group of people is better off with names or numbers:

* timing team - I don't think it really matters much, the tech guys can do it either way (speaking as a once-was-tech guy myself ;-)
* start team - doesn't matter at all at WOC. At smaller events I think name is actually a bit easier, as start lists are usually done by name.
* bib printers - at WOC, just print one front/back bib for each athlete and they wear it each day they race. At Rio, based on the crumpled bibs, I guess this is what they did.

* names enhance their recognition. This has several potential benefits, including increase sponsorship.
* at small events (eg: Canadian champs) it is awesome to see other people's name! Helps social aspect.

Media - race announcing
* names much better since eliminates identification mistakes (as in 2015 sprint relay)
* names also eliminates cross-referencing bib number to name, so commentators have more time to find interesting things to say.
* numbers give relative start time, but this would be available to them on the live results screen with much higher precision.

Media - photography
* names much better since runners can easily be identified

Spectators - in the arena
* name helps recognition of athletes, which increases engagement.
* number gives an indication of start time, so you can track who is catching up.
* however using number to track start times / running times is pretty pre-internet. Nowadays I would expect organizers to provide wifi in the arena so that spectators can follow live results online.

Spectators - on TV / streaming
* name is best, since they are probably watching with live results

Spectators - print media / social media / post event internet posts
* for sure name is better.

I think that overwhelmingly having the name is better than a number. There are a few groups of people who might slightly prefer numbers, but there is less and less reason for that I feel.

Look at the picture above and imagine it with numbers instead of names - it would have way less emotional connection.
Aug 23, 2016 11:30 PM # 
My goodness, don't give that old guy more time to find interesting things to say ;) !
Aug 23, 2016 11:33 PM # 
Surely you could have picked a photo with a Canadian winning?
I actually picked the first one from Google image search of "Olympics" - was staggered to find it had a long name which was exactly what I was looking for. And other names of various lengths (and font size) too, which was also good ;-)
Aug 24, 2016 12:42 AM # 
Pretty simple rule change - replace "number" with "identification" and leave it to organisers.

21.2 Start number bibs shall be clearly visible and worn as prescribed by the organiser. The bibs shall not be larger than 25 cm x 25 cm with figures at least 10 cm high. The number bibs may not be folded or cut.
Aug 24, 2016 12:47 AM # 
@invisiblelog, how about Canadian placing 2nd?
Aug 24, 2016 12:54 AM # 
Pink Socks:
There's probably another option for something like WOC:

Put the athlete's name on the jersey itself. They did this at the Olympic Triathlon (which may be what CedarCreek is alluding to).

This can either be done by an IOF requirement to the teams, or since I suspect that the IOF doesn't have athletic apparel requirements, the teams or individuals can do it on their own accord. So AZ, if you want Canada's runners to be more easily identified at WOC, you can probably suggest it to Orienteering Canada and it'll have a much higher likelihood of happening than suggesting things to the IOF.

I'm a close follower of athletic uniform aesthetics, and there's a bib problem at the international level. In Rio, we saw bibs with various font sizes and weights; it looked unprofessional. The bibs were also giant, to the point that they obscured county names. For running events, wearing giant bibs doesn't look streamlined, either. Soccer players and triathletes need to be able to be identified, too, but they don't have to wear bibs.

A related issue is that in sports where bibs are required, some teams don't account for bibs when creating the uniform design. I've seen so many jerseys out there with primary team branding completely covered up by bibs. Every time I design an orienteering jersey, I account for the space of a giant bib (and bibs are getting bigger, as sponsors want more guaranteed real estate).
Aug 24, 2016 1:01 AM # 
>Put the athlete's name on the jersey itself.
This is an excellent idea and makes a lot of sense for a sport where bibs can easily be detached from the jersey.
Aug 24, 2016 1:42 AM # 
Whatever is on the bib, could I make a plea that organisers avoid the very tiniest, bendiest, safety pins when putting together the race pack
Aug 24, 2016 2:10 AM # 
Just staple the race bibs onto the athlete. Easy.
Aug 24, 2016 2:15 AM # 
tattoos are more common now - why not get a lifetime number to go with the lifetime name
Aug 24, 2016 2:17 AM # 
Already have a number under IOF Eventor. Get barcoded as well, then it's easier to get scanned at the start line to see if you've paid your athlete registration fee.
Aug 24, 2016 3:10 AM # 
Now that we have that solved, maybe they can get microchipped with the SI Air into the athlete's preferred hands. :)
Aug 24, 2016 5:39 AM # 
With Bobachs, Silds and Hubmanns... surname alone doesn't identify.
Aug 24, 2016 9:18 AM # 

When they have the same first initials it can still be solved.

I can see this is a great idea for WOC. Not sure why you'd need it for local races though.
Aug 24, 2016 9:20 AM # 
For WOC, it would also turn the name bibs into collectors items a bit more. It would be cool for an inspired young Canadian to be given a Kemp bib to put on their wall, rather than a 47 or whatever
Aug 24, 2016 9:29 AM # 
Great running, um, er, um ... Canada!
Aug 24, 2016 1:25 PM # 
For local events in Canada (well, for the last few national champs) we've put names on bibs. It really helps the social situation since it helps people remember who each other are and therefore eliminates awkward situations where you only vaguely remember someone but fee you should at least know their name ;-) In fact the 'name bibs' were so popular that we got suggestions that volunteers wear them too so people would be reminded of their names too. Heck, even if you didn't know someone's name you could still call them by their name, which is nice.

It also has minor advantages for the low level of announcing we do and for the start crew and a bit for the timing crew (esp if someone downloads with someone elses SI punch).

I used to think bibs were a waste of time for smaller events. But now I think more small events should have 'name bibs'. But mostly I think WOC should.

(Nixon's point about collector's items is a really good one - I think he's right on. My originial idea was that WOC would just print one bib per person, but with this idea a few per person would be better.)
Aug 24, 2016 1:29 PM # 
@graeme - I think that actually says "Caelan" rather than "Canada" (the runner's name). I'm not sure if that's your point, but it does show that large fonts are really important, which means big bibs. Which means Pink Socks will be appalled.
Aug 24, 2016 3:38 PM # 
One marathon recommendation that surprised me was to always have your name visible from the front, because people yell encouragement to you whether you do or don't:
"Go, Canada!"
"Heeeyy, Adidas!"
Aug 24, 2016 4:28 PM # 
Pink Socks:
When they have the same first initials it can still be solved.

It solves the athlete name problem, but it creates others. What country are these women from? I know their names, I know what company makes the uniform, but unless I'm a keen vexillologist, I don't know they are from Estonia, and that's the team they compete for. The size of these bibs are ridiculous and despite having names, they detract from team identification.

I'm not sure if that's your point, but it does show that large fonts are really important, which means big bibs. Which means Pink Socks will be appalled.

In this instance, I'm appalled because only 1/3 of the bib area is actually used to identify athletes. Wide is ok (to accommodate longer names), but unnecessarily tall bibs are silly.
Aug 24, 2016 6:33 PM # 
Along with the name, it's easy enough to have a three-letter country abbreviation.
Aug 24, 2016 6:41 PM # 
Pink Socks:
Yeah, triathlon has this figured out.
Aug 24, 2016 9:11 PM # 
I don't think there are many orienteers running in crop tops, so bibs that size wouldn't be an issue.

Good points made by someone about uniform designers making sure that the bib area is clear.
Aug 24, 2016 9:24 PM # 
If you must have number bibs at WOC, why not print the actual four-digit start time, instead of an arbitrary three-digit number? That makes it entirely obvious who has caught whom and by how much, and the spectators can tell how long everyone has been running when they come through the arena even if your arena wifi has gone down.

Doesn't work for qualifiers or relays, obviously.
Aug 24, 2016 9:27 PM # 
That only works if you have one class

They did that at WUOC, but then the start clock wasn't in 24hr time, rather minutes past first start, so it didn't work well at all.
Aug 24, 2016 9:31 PM # 
Yeah, sorry - I think your post beat my edit. Should be fine for the finals where you don't have men and women starting on the same minute. But I'd agree that names would generally be the better option.
Aug 24, 2016 9:51 PM # 
For relays I think I might prefer GBR-1, GBR-2 etc. rather than surnames. As a spectator I think it's probably more important to know which country someone is running for rather than to be able to identify the individual athlete, and sadly I don't think many national orienteering kits are sufficiently distinctive.

Alternatively, the IOF could take the lead from other international sports and consider being a little more prescriptive in its kit regulations for WOC, e.g. requiring the country name to be clearly printed on the front and back of the racing top in letters between x and y cm high.
Aug 24, 2016 9:56 PM # 
The Sprint Relay had GBR on the back, and team number + leg number on front. Although having GBR on a bib below Great Britain in text did seem a bit redundant, you're right that there are still some teams who don't have their name on their kit, which is quite odd. The fact that maybe half the countries competing have red, white, and blue as their colours doesn't help either.
Aug 25, 2016 1:52 AM # 
In my opinion; I would like to see the athletes name, country of representation, date of birth, residential address and heartwarming backstory synopsis (all the best athletes have these) preferably displayed in large font on the race bib. I need to know everything about the athlete and I need to know it immediately to increase my enjoyment when spectating at a race.
Aug 25, 2016 1:59 AM # 
Yeah a backstory is a good idea. Usually the most tear-jerking storied athlete takes home the medal so would be easier to see who is going to win right from the start.
Aug 25, 2016 3:18 AM # 
Sorry in advance....

tRicky - reinstate the qualifiers? You have 45 minutes to write the best backstory for yourself. The top 60 backstories get into the final? It could even be a mass start qualifier!
Aug 25, 2016 9:36 AM # 
@AZ Sorry for being my usual opaque self...
The picture of Caelen is meant to show a number of things.

First, although those bibs were excellent for the runner, for all the event social reasons you already laid out, they didn't work for spectators. For WOC, IMO, the bib should be for the spectator.

Second, in the absence of bib information, there's a lot to be said for distinctive national kit and IMO Canada has always had the best kit. I liked the Caelan/Canada confusability, but its not a big point.

As a spectator, I want to know three things - Name, country, how they're doing. The country info should be on the kit, so the bib needs a number and name - and the number should be related to the start time, so if I see 43 and 45 running together, I know who's doing well.

I understand why we need sponsors names, but spectators dont need to know its the "World Championships" and don't need to know they are "orienteering". Even if the bib is for the runners benefit, you might hope they wouldn't need to check which sport and event they were doing by consulting the bib;)
Aug 26, 2016 5:26 AM # 
It's probably better for photographs if the bibs say "World Championships". It adds context.
Aug 30, 2016 1:48 PM # 
"You mean you abseilerers actually have a World Championships?!? Well, I never..."
Aug 31, 2016 2:15 PM # 
>> why not get a lifetime number to go with the lifetime name

> Already have a number under IOF Eventor.

and we already had lifetime numbers before they went and changed them. Who's to say it won't happen again?
Sep 2, 2016 1:35 AM # 
Good point. I guess we'll need multiple barcode tattoos.

On a related note, we got membership numbers for our local association several years back and there is a box on the weekly registration card for this info and despite NEVER using the number, I still occasionally have people apologise for not writing it down (no-one writes it because it's irrelevant but there are people who think they need to).

This discussion thread is closed.