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Current Status of Orienteering
in the Olympics

Bruce McAlister, USOF Board of Directors, Alternate Representative

The International Orienteering Federation is committed to entering the Olympic World. That is why we had a special Congress to add an Elite Events group, and why the format and timing of the World Championships is changing. I am assuming we are past arguing whether this is a good thing or not. The question is probably not even if; it is when and how.

There are several routes for getting into the Games. There are the formal conditions in the Olympics Rules: the sport must be practiced in a minimum number of nations on so many continents, etc. etc. We have met the minimum ski-o requirements, but are still short for Foot-O for the Summer Games. But within striking distance. But all that satisfying the Rules does for you is to get orienteering on the "wannabe list." I would guess from our treatment in the World Games and general realationship with the IOC that we are on the wannabe list now.

But you still have to have the IOC or the Games City itself want you in the Games. Today, the biggest drawback is "space". The IOC has taken a general position that the number of competitors is fixed, so if someone comes in someone goes out. But almost no one goes out, so almost no one can come in. Unless you are someone the IOC wants (Half-Pipe and Beach Volleyball come to mind), the best bet is when an Organising Committee (the committee organised by the selected city to actually plan the Games) says there is room in the schedule and asks for a particular sport. Even then, the IOC has to agree for there are no more Demonstration Sports. I can see two ways to get Orienteering into the Games: Extreme-O or infiltrating an Organising Committee.

First, let's look at the Organising Committee route:'04 is gone; '08 is Beijing. If O gets in the Olympics soon, it may just be Beijing. Very little is heard about Beijing and O, outside of occasional articles about Jorgen and China that appear in Swedish from time to time (check out Falun Orientering). These largely describe the work of Jorgen Mortenson in China. Jorgen has been working in China organising orienteering for the Chinese government. It has not had much publicity, but I have read reports that Jorgen has had 40,000 spectators at a meet in Beijing. I don't think we have had that many competitors, much less spectators, in the history of O in the US, and that was one meet in China. Combine that with the webcasting and TV programmes that IOF is developing, and the Arena Orienteering that IOF is promoting, and Jorgen's friends on the Beijing Organising Committee, and one can at least imagine the possibility that when the Beijing Committee presents its proposed programme to the IOC in a couple of years, that they will have found room to squeeze in orienteering.

Okay, if not Beijing, then 2012, or 2016. Is your city planning to bid for the 2012 Games? If so, are you working to get O-people on the organising committees?

but I'm not contradiction you other than to say that what grabs the popular imagination is something other than all that. Why do more people run marathons than O events? It makes no sense to me, but I think maybe it's because marathons and stunts on skis are understood, O isn't, I guess I'm saying, can we reconsider the deicision to use Park-O as the format for Olympic orienteering

So, back to Extreme-O: Well, I don't think it will be O-Cross. There is a group, aiming to get Rogaining as some sort of Extreme-O into the Olympics. Orienteering is already a part of some of the Extreme competitions. This has some advantages. The competition could be extreme: cliffs, ropes over crevasses, maybe water controls with swimming and diving etc.. There can be cameras at all extreme points. Competitors can be dressed to look more athletic. We can't compete with women's gymnastics or beach volleyball, but we can do better than O-suits. Maybe some of those sexy swim suits at the swim and dive controls. Even though they aren't anywhere near the IOC numbers, give them some good PR, and Rogaining (probably renamed something like Extreme Marathon) could be in the Games faster than anything else.

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