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Discussion: WOC guideline

in: Orienteering; General

Aug 15, 2011 11:26 AM # 
"- This is a guideline given for the qualification races in the World Championships, one of the organizers told when asked about the course layout. – The qualification courses must be made in a way that ensures that all the runners on a lower level also get through."

Year after year our WOC expectations is controlling by the same "guideline". To be honest, I really don’t like to know who is behind these guidelines. From the organizer’s answer I might think that course planners and organizers have had also better q courses on the menu but somebody told them to make it easier. I didn’t look what WOC rules say but qualification courses are always easier&shorter than runners are expected to be. Why should be like this?

What is new to me is that the course should be easier “to ensure that all the runners on a lower level also get through”. Nice, so that mean the purpose is on ALL runners GET THROUGH.

Is this a joke?

We speak about WOC and elite runners not M21B class. Please, tell them that we don’t share their thoughts and we don’t like easier and shorter courses and especially don’t like orienteering on paths. I believe that elite class should have the best possible course which each terrain can give you.

What to say about middle q results at the end. It seems that some runners on lower level didn't get through middle q course. In goal oriented mind.......mission not accomplished. Do they make too tough q course? Do they want to know way they didn’t get through?

I always thought that qualification course is easier because of the all round runners and the logic “the best will go thru anyway” even if I can’t understand this. Why after many years we all have been accepted this as it is very wrong concept which might happen to sport.

It is really time to get rid of the qualifications before we invent guideline which will purpose only paths to ensure that all participants will go thru & have official result & have pleasant memories on WOC. But we still have at least two WOCs with qualification courses and we will see what will bring us these "guidelines".

Why we can’t have two equal good, technical, same length races for qualifications and final?
Aug 15, 2011 11:48 AM # 
The IOF WOC guidelines are at If you can find any such guideline in that document you're doing better than I am.
Aug 15, 2011 12:08 PM # 
So, we are all searching for this lost page between 80p long guideline :)
Aug 15, 2011 12:22 PM # 
But I remember hearing the same thing in the past... already back in Switzerland 2003.
Aug 15, 2011 12:40 PM # 
I think it's OK. There is no need to put additional stress on runners. Most of them runs 3 disciplines, 5 races in total. Qual's purpose is to limit number of runners in final to ensure similar conditions during the final race. But not to overstress. Skills tested, stronger runners made the final.
There always will be discussions about it, but if you want to ensure fair conditions during final (not mass start), you must to limit number of runners. Question is how. Rankings, quotas, quali, quali in advance (not in WOC programme).
Aug 15, 2011 1:15 PM # 
The qualification courses must be made in a way that ensures that all the runners on a lower level also get through.

I'm not sure that I understand what this means. Does it mean that the qualification courses must be easy/short enough that all participants are able to (eventually) finish?
Aug 15, 2011 1:45 PM # 
jjcote>> That's my interpretation, which makes it really strange that everyone with a time of over 70 minutes is disqualified. Seems to be working at cross-purposes with this "get through" goal?
Aug 15, 2011 1:51 PM # 
Two worlds and yours have prevailed.

Anyway, nobody talk about the main purpose of the quali: limiting number of the runners in the final. Maybe one of the best example is skiing championships as it is also very technical sport. They don't have easier first run because some athletes can't stand on skis. Also they don’t make easier downhill course because some athletes are scared. That would be huge scandal if something like this would happen. But not in orienteering.

I don't know how this coud be good for sport and to attract media interest if even runners from Barbados think that it was not that challenging.
Aug 15, 2011 2:07 PM # 
Anyway, nobody talk about the main purpose of the quali: limiting number of the runners in the final.

I always assumed the point was to "rank" the runners to achieve a "best last" start order.
Aug 15, 2011 5:02 PM # 
Pink Socks:
I think golf is similar. Over the course of a four-day "major" golf tournament, they have a cut line (ie: qualification) after two days. And while not true for each individual hole, I believe that the pin placements are generally more difficult on Saturday/Sunday vs. Thursday/Friday.
Aug 15, 2011 5:18 PM # 
Orienteering is similar :) They have qualifiers of only 2/3rds the distance of the actual discipline. And they reserve the best/hardest area for the final.

So we should expect the final to be technically harder, right?
Aug 15, 2011 5:25 PM # 
Yes and I don't see anything wrong with that. It certainly makes more sense than having a hard qualifier and then an easy final.
Aug 15, 2011 5:54 PM # 
Many sports tweak the rules to enhance certain aspects of their sport. Orienteering has many aspects but the two major aspects are running and navigating. So what does a course setter do to ensure "that all the runners on a lower level also get through"? Is the navigating easier or the running easier?

At the world level all the finalist are very good at both the running and the navigating. So, the only consequence of having an "easier" qualifier is to favor either the better navigator or better runner in the seeding. Of course, depending on how the qualifying course is skewed.
Aug 15, 2011 5:57 PM # 
Reserving the best area for the final, sure (unless you are in Norway), but having a decent area for the qualies while making the courses deliberately less challenging is sad.
Aug 15, 2011 5:57 PM # 
Navigating is the defining feature and so that is the aspect that should (and is) stressed in the finals.
Aug 15, 2011 7:06 PM # 
Thank you Neil.
It looks that it is not clear who is responsible and who must stand behind the final course layout decision. Can someone who has personal expertise tell us how is done decision making process for WOC courses? Standards which are set by IOF Foot orienteering Rules (Appendix 6) for course setting are probably good enough but what we get out in reality is 180 degrees different. Who didn't do his homework?
Aug 15, 2011 7:13 PM # 
With this year's Middle Qualifier it was a bit odd how similar all the different heats were too - like a relay perhaps - which surely made it track up more?
Aug 15, 2011 8:07 PM # 
Can someone who has personal expertise tell us how is done decision making process for WOC courses?

My experience is from 18 years ago, but at WOC '93:

The USA-side course setting team consisted of
The "Short" course setter (for both the qualifier and final events)
The "Classic" course setter
The Relay course setter (who was also the overall course setting chairman)
Five vetters
The "National Controller"
An additional technical consultant
(plus technical help from the guy in charge of the maps)

The IOF-side consisted of
The International Course Controller
The Map Controller
at least one deputy controller who made a visit to the USA, but we chased him off

The strategy was to make the courses as technically challeging as possible, while dealing with practical constraints regarding the locations of starts and finishes (in particular, road crossings in Harriman were a major concern). The main point of dispute between the USA and IOF sides had to do with the lengths of the courses -- the actual locations of controls and the technical challenge were not major issues that I can recall. The international controllers were of the opinion that the terrain was slower than we believed it to be, due in large part to the rocky footing, I think. (Note that there was only one qualifying race in those days, for the Short.) There was give and take from both sides, and eventually a compromise was arrived at which nobody was happy with (as is true of all good compromises). The process of getting to that compromise involved everything from civil discussion up to heated arguments between various combinations of the people listed above, and the course setting was much more of a group operation than any other event I've been involved with. Although I was listed as the course setter for one of the events, I did not feel that they were "my" courses, other than for a few legs, it was much more that I was the moderator for a big committee on that particular day. The critical test was when the results came in, and of course all of the winning times were shorter than they were supposed to be, not enough so to be a problem, but enough to show that the Americans were right about our own terrain.

(One of the most tense moments was when the deputy IOF controller, after hearing comments from the technical consultant (a woman), turned to the course setting chairman and said something along the lines of "You and I, we two men, will go into the other room now and decide what the lengths of the courses shall be". That did not go over well, and was probably the single most important item in his not being invited back.)
Aug 16, 2011 10:47 AM # 
Nice overview, I especially like yours starting position to do courses as technically challenging as possible.

Probably what Frenchmen’s did but after those discussions and compromises it looks that nobody from course setting and organizers team have had influence to insist to stick with the rules. To do Follow-up with the rules it looks that is no man task. This guideline”all runners get thru” should be rejected but now it is obviously that organizers can’t prepare their own WOC anymore without influences of IOF advisers even if you pay for it.

You mentioned that only lengths were the main problem in 93. Now, with Olympics goal and media guidelines whole course is on stake. Maybe "guidelines" were the appropriate weapons for the last few years but they can't do everything. So changing the formats should be the formal guidelines. IOF advisers are the ultimate official authority in my eyes so it is hard to accept that they use some other “soft” guidelines and not just the official rules for the final course layout. If this was WC FIFA tournament,..........

So, what is the point to have a good terrain and don’t use it. You could find paths with some forest everywhere. And what is the point to have so strict rules with much bigger organizations than in 1993 to control the event (IOF senior advisers, IOF controllers, IOF jury,....) and then have very low output compare to 93.

Maybe they use this guideline only for middle and the rest of the courses will be great.
Aug 17, 2011 3:47 AM # 
"The strategy was to make the courses as technically challeging as possible, while dealing with practical constraints..."

I have to respectfully disagree with my co- course setter JJ on this point, especially in light of what I perceive as the implied criticism of the French Middle and/or Long qualifying courses.

My memory is fading and fallible, but I don't recall a special emphasis on making any of the WOC 93 courses as technical as possible. We knew we had great technical terrain for all events. I thought the goal was much closer to "set the best courses possible" given the expectations for each event, which sounds nebulous, but I think we (US and IOF) were all in agreement on what this meant.

I would agree that JJ's Long/ Classic was the most technical, partially by intent, but also by the blessing of the terrain provided. The other events were definitely much easier than the potential of the terrain, in order to produce the best possible Relay and Short style courses. At the time the "Short" was somewhat of a combination of the current Sprint and Middle, not the super technical event the Middle has become.

If the intent was to make the WOC93 courses as technical as possible, I think we failed miserably, and thank goodness we did, at least in my opinion. The courses could have had many more controls, especially by current standards. The courses could have forced more routes through the rough stuff (stony, steep, thick). There could have been more control placements in the rough stuff. Heck, we probably could have even found some detail -free "bingo" terrain for variety. Instead I think we hit a good balance of tech difficulty, route choice, and general O interest, that served the WOC objectives of the time and has apparently stood the test of time.

Now compare the WOC 93 Harriman terrain to what we see and hear from France. Its not even close. Even on "easy" courses, the per/km times, amounts of error time, and on site commentary shows that this French terrain is incredibly rough, slow, and technical, a full step beyond anything ever used for a World Championship, or perhaps any other competition for that matter.

In many terrains elite level courses need to push the technical limits of the terrain, to provide the expected challenge, however there are terrains that provide more technical potential than should be used, even for the "elite", without changing the essential nature of the sport. I think Harriman is one of those, and this French stuff seems off the charts.

Yes, I agree the qualifying events were "eased up", but again I'll say "thank goodness" they exercised discretion. Not even world class orienteers need or want to go any slower, or need/want to be seperated by greater percentages. I thought the qualifier events hit the balance very well. I expect and hope the finals will be a notch tougher, but not two or three notches which is possible. The Relay is a different animal, with perhaps with some respectful disagreement about appropriate tech difficulty. Personally I favor a higher route choice, less tech form for the Relay, but I won't begrudge the French anything if they set the most technical WOC relay ever. For a number of reasons this would be appropriate payback for last year's Norwegian experience.
Aug 17, 2011 4:25 AM # 
Although Eric disagrees with me, I won't disagree with him! I'm glad he weighed in on this, in fact, in order to get another point of view. My perspective is mostly from that of the Classic, where the emphasis was more on technical navigation. On the other hand, I think some of the difference may be that I used the term "technical" in a manner that maybe doesn't convey well what I was thinking. We certainly could have used nastier parts of the terrain, but "slower" is not equilvalent to "more technical" in my mind. We did (I think) minimize the use of trails and other obvious handrails, and in the Short Qualifier, there was quite a bit of navigation around laurel involved, which is tricky. (On the other hand, laurel largely had to be avoided on the Classic, not because it was too slow, but because the laurel on Surebridge tended to grow in more compact clumps that stood out like beacons in the forest and made the navigation easy.) I think maybe what Eric describes as "a good balance of tech difficulty, route choice, and general O interest" is what I was trying to distill down as "technically challenging". For example, I consider a long route choice leg with five options (some of them maybe easy to execute but possibly slower) as a technically challenging leg.

I did find a folder of papers from 1993 in a drawer tonight, though, that includes some correspondence between the USA and IOF, and of particular interest to this discussion is a paragraph from a letter written by the IOF controller:
"The longer the courses and the more the use of the most detailed terrain, the bigger will become the gap between the Nordic (+ a few others) and the rest become. Particularly in the relay, this is important. With long courses, using much of the detailed, cliffy stuff, we will face a big spread. That will kill the excitement of the relay. It's important that at least some of the "B-nations" can hang on for two or three legs. This is not a specific viewpoint of myself, but is shared with all I have talked with within IOF."

So I guess the same general sentiment was in fact present 18 years ago...
Aug 17, 2011 9:54 AM # 
I have found only a short final race map of WOC93.

Could you post also a short qualifier map if you have, please? Would be nice to understand more what you are talking about.

What runners (spectators) expect from WOC courses is somehow mostly based on organizer's decisions. One of the WOC11 goals: “A high technical level of races allowing to award the World Champion titles”. Do we must assume that this mean only for final races or they were exaggerating when they wrote down the WOC goals.

Most of the athletes understand that courses are balanced between many aspects. Maybe technical vs. WOC objectives is the most undefined part of it. In general I think (believe) that most of the orienteers prefer to have the most technical course that one terrain can give. To use the whole potential of the terrain for WOC course is hard work but those courses get respect and could become legendary.

At small events and at national championships courses are also course setter personal achievement compare to WOC courses where courses are mostly IOF mirror how and what they want to sell to the media, sponsors and to IOC. IOF controller's specific viewpoint which is also shared within all in the IOF is not the same viewpoint that they wrote down in the Rules! It is good that IOF officials have common viewpoint but it is still just their viewpoint which should not influence on the course layout if the Rules says differently. Maybe it is too harsh to say that but between WOC objectives I miss that WOC courses should in first place pleased the runners as their excitement is crucial for the sport. I am a type of spectator (orienteer) who is watching the race also through the eyes of the competitors, what challenges they are facing on the course and not just the excitement of itself.

I think that is in our human nature that we want that our event is looking big, fancy even if we can’t do it well, we will nevertheless write down high flying words. That is good for fundraising and media interest for sure but it is not quite fair to runners and to spectators. Maybe IOF is expecting too much from the organizers and sport which is not so professional that they want it to be. It is evident that something with WOC objectives is not O.K. if the runners one after one each WOC can say something about jogging, easy runs, not so hard than expected, etc. TG said: "I planned to run full speed in the beginning and take it more easy in the end, but the course was made in such a way that I had to change my tactic along the course, because it was quite much running on path, Gueorgiou said after his race. So I decided not to run full speed on tracks to save some energy."

I don’t want to watch the elite orienteering where every athlete would have chance to say what TG said.
Aug 17, 2011 4:07 PM # 
Agreed the '93 Short was not astoundingly difficult, interesting to hear the stories from then!

I think they did a great job with this (Long 2011) terrain, judging by the maps/gps. The very best navigators had clean(?) races, so it seems like the race was fair. There were plenty of opportunities for good navigators to place well. I guess the main problem is it was a little too long.

I can't wait to see the middle!
Aug 17, 2011 4:53 PM # 
should in first place pleased the runners

It's this we-for-us attitude that is the main obstacle in the path of the sport's growth. How many elite runners are there? If the WOC's main goal were to please the runners, at the expense of entertaining the public and engaging the media and the sponsors, how is the WOC going to be funded? Will the elite runners chip in to organize it? How many of them have spare money or spare time to organize the WOC? Why should the general orienteering public go to the considerable expense of time and money of organizing a WOC if it can't get some positive benefits in return that are enabled by compromises?
Aug 17, 2011 7:28 PM # 
Could you post also a short qualifier map if you have, please? Would be nice to understand more what you are talking about.

For some reason, it looks like I only saved one Short Qualifier map, the "Men D" course.
From misc

(click for larger image)

Another issue that I had forgotten about was the dispute about map scale. WOC93 was only the second World Championship to have a Short event (WOC91 in Czechoslovakia did, but WOC89 in Sweden had just the Individual and Relay). We felt that, given the pace of the race and the detail of the terrain, it was appropriate to print the Short maps at 1:10000. This had never(?) been done before for an international elite race*, 1:15000 was the standard, and it took a lot of persuading on our part. In the end we won that battle, and the Short Qualifier and Final maps were at 1:10000 (the Classic and Relay were 1:15000). The model event maps were printed at both scales on one sheet of paper.

*Oh, I imagine somebody will come up with a case of some international race on gold mining terrain back in the 1980s that was printed at 1:10000 (or 1:7500, or 1:5000...). Whatever. 1:10000 was rare and seemed to be considered something suitable only for old people.
Aug 17, 2011 8:10 PM # 
Short qualifier '93! One of my fave races I've ever done. I can't remember if this is the course I ran but I think I had #9. Tough control. I find that Harriman is generally easier terrain than it appears on paper because of relatively good footing and excellent visibility and well mapped mtn laurel boundaries
Aug 17, 2011 8:19 PM # 
I didn't say/mean that this is the main goal but one of the main important goal among other goals! They often forget about it and that shouldn't be the case for debating. Last year WOC final middle course is one of negative extreme and we must learn something out of it. Norberg said something about this. Also none so good runners from B nations want to feel real challenging courses and that is all.

To have bad qualifying courses don’t mean that orienteering will grow faster. It is just an indifferent attitude from IOF officials towards weaker runners. They think that is no need to do better than this for them. I don’t think that they come to WOC just to get official rank. If we have had good q courses just similar as first part of today long final race than everybody would need to show all their skills to qualify. If somebody gets lost that will not be the end of sport. IOF will have to do a lot more than just get rid of the qualifications to assure that sport will have better future.

Entertaining the public as WOC objective is just a question of a good IT and TV production and that is still week and unified if we want to sell the sport to the mainstream media. Even for home spectators is barely enough. Too many troubles even if you put aside the bad GPS signal. In which country you could watch WOC on national broadcasting program if you exclude a few webTVs? As orienteering is mostly European affair than we could say that we made a progress when EBU will show the interest to broadcast the WOC.

But my thread question is more linked to the bad courses on great terrains. In this particular case would be nice to hear what they achieved with this guideline “all runners get thru” or get off the record statement from the course planners. In my opinion they wanted to please the runners from new countries-first time attending at WOC. Why this is suddenly become so important objective?

The real question is why some people think that sport will grow if we agree to have less technical courses & less demanding formats which will have batter chances to attract more public and media than today?
Aug 17, 2011 8:30 PM # 
The real question is why some people think that sport will grow

But it did. Had the 1990s WOCs featured super-technical slogs, you'd still have 12 nations competing now with 5.5 of them with a shot at medals. Now you have 50, with over a dozen with a shot at medals. The French would not have been able to secure the funding that they got in the late 1990s if all the results lists had started with a bunch of -ssons and -sens.
Aug 17, 2011 9:46 PM # 
You can't hang on me on each word I say separately. I also didn’t say that sport hasn’t made any progress from 90ties. I just try to make a point that maybe it is not everything that IOF or IOF officials do very good for the sport. Sport was growing fast that is for sure but now it is also time to check what we achieved from professional sport standards compare to 90ties before we step even further up. IOF result list is just one small thing. Media and sponsors are beside Olympic goal IOF main long term tasks for quite some time and officials must present that they are able to sell our sport. IOF should be able to partly finance WOC event needs so we can get high standard service every year. I would also like to see some money awards from IOF for the medallists!

We are coming to the line where it is very clear which sports are professional and which are not. How many orienteers are real or a semi professional, how important is orienteering in each IOF member country (media interest, how much money sport gets from government, sponsors, how many employees ...) .

In my country sport is vegetating as our sport system support only Olympic sports and we could have fun or let the sport die. I read that even in Sweden they have been struggled in last years to attract new youngsters and that they miss the golden 80ties.
Aug 17, 2011 9:55 PM # 
I didn't remember the 1:10,000 issue, but I believe JJ.
I hope I supported this "new" scale. :-)

"..Harriman is generally easier terrain than it appears on paper.."
I have always agreed with this.
Aug 17, 2011 10:15 PM # 
IOF should be able to partly finance

Let's consider where IOF's funds come from. Almost all of the budget is member nation contributions, plus a few sponsor euros, such as the generous contribution from Kemira. Would Kemira prefer:

Exposure in 12 nations—or—exposure in 50 nations?

Logo exposure on boards and competitor uniforms upon multiple passes through the arena—or— ...

I don't think there's much need to go further...

By narrowing things down to a very high standard, IOF would cut off the very possibility of further professionalization of the sport, since the sponsor interest necessary to fund this standard would never come to a critical mass.
Aug 17, 2011 10:41 PM # 
The same with Blue Mountain, Eric ;)

T/D, I think you're being unfair. For example, passage through the arena has nothing to do with less technical qualifier courses.
And by your logic, there would be more cameras in the arena and none in the woods, to please Kemira et al.
Aug 17, 2011 10:47 PM # 
passage through the arena has nothing to do with less technical qualifier courses

In the particular case of the 2011 WOC, correct; but the need to pass through the arena has been repeatedly blamed for "poor" course quality at earlier WOCs.

there would be more cameras in the arena and none in the woods

There are certainly a lot of cameras in the arena, perhaps a third to half of all the cameras for the production. Most of the sponsor impressions occur in the arena.
Aug 17, 2011 10:47 PM # 
I think that Kemira sponsorship is not that kind as you describe. We can't help them to build their image through orienteering sport very much as we are not in mass media. Maybe they got sponsorship because people at Kemira like orienteering and CEO thought that this will be good to motivate their employees to think more about the environment, nature, etc. Maybe the Finnish federation will do something for them too. Maybe one of CEOs practice orienteering and decided to help a little. It would be nice to hear from somebody how visible Kemira is at this year WOC arenas. At official web services I didn't notice Kemira logo and not even IOF logo and not even one commercial break for us home viewers. But they have had plenty of garbage time.

Yes, they are trying to do their best, mostly voluntary. Very appriciated. But still qualifying courses have nothing to do with this problem from where money comes and where it goes.
Aug 17, 2011 11:35 PM # 
I may have been wrong about Kemira. But put in any of the WOC 2011 sponsors and my statements stand. These sponsors fund IOF less directly, through the fees that they pay to the organizers and the organizers then pay IOF the WOC license fee.
Aug 18, 2011 9:38 AM # 
"Why should the general orienteering public go to the considerable expense of time and money of organizing a WOC if it can't get some positive benefits..."

I am trying to understand your view. Do you have answers on what you wrote as I assume that you are talking about many different benefits here? Which particular benefits would you like to achieve so you could say at the end that it was worth to organize the WOC? Can you make WOC with the profit that would be more than WOC license fee? If that is not possible than this mean that IOF license fee might be too high for countries out of TOP 6 and too risky to organize the WOC. Good qualifying courses should be one of the worldwide benefits for the sport.

I agree with you about WOC sponsors. So they must give them something back thru publicity and merchandise. Maybe teams and spectators attending at WOC already know who is ERDF but I still don’t know. Mainly because I don’t care much but I also haven’t got any help from organizers by accidentally yet. No help thru media coverage of WOC races or thru commentators (they focus only on technical aspects of the race). We all know that we must sell our sport but organizers as usually have lack of time, money and people to do all this needed marketing tasks and I don’t blame them. It is just our reality what orienteering sport is at the moment. I think that media newsletters, press conferences, souvenir shops, company presentations on site are good enough but only first step to sell the WOC to general public.

We all know that only viewers behind the screens are really important and we must try to sell sport to them. Do we know how many viewers have had SVT, Swiss, other WebTVs during WOC broadcast in the last years? What kind of web marketing tools we can use? Did they pay for the rights to broadcast the signal? What are the numbers we must reach to convince EBU to step in?

My conclusion is that as long as we will not have a person at IOF responsible only for marketing to help and work with the organizers so long we can’t expect that our sport will bring us money. It is too complex business area to gain any results if someone works on this voluntary or we just wait that IOF council would figuring it out what is the best for the sport. IOF mainly just come to the event...with more or less empty pockets!

They could produce more important guidelines as it is a guideline how qualifying course should look like!
Aug 18, 2011 5:17 PM # 
Which particular benefits would you like to achieve so you could say at the end that it was worth to organize the WOC?

Adequate exposure in the media and enough sponsor/government interest to pay the bills. These should be the primary goals of a WOC. Courses are important, too, but not as important.
Aug 18, 2011 7:48 PM # 
Ah yes, those B and C nation runners...
Aug 18, 2011 8:06 PM # 
I wonder how many of them are fuming now about those oh-so-easy qual courses.

This discussion thread is closed.