60th Birthday Reflections

by Hon. Life President Brian Porteous

I find it difficult to believe that the IOF is 60 and indeed that it is 10 years since we celebrated our 50th anniversary. I am really pleased to be asked to reflect, as part of the 60th celebrations, on my time as president.

Let’s do the boring bit first! In my time on the IOF Council and especially as Vice President and President, I was especially keen that the IOF should have a good and effective strategy with a clear and compelling vision. (But, of course, I was a management consultant in my day job!) In simple terms that strategic vision was of orienteering being recognised as a global sport. While there is still work to be done on that, considerable progress has been made through things like our participation in the World Games and especially in the Winter Universiade, of which we are now a regular sport. World Orienteering Day, before the COVID restrictions, proved the scope and reach of the sport around the world in a unique way. These activities and the increasing number of federations joining the IOF have secured recognition by the IOC and others of our position as a truly world sport.

Development of TV presence

A central and important part of that recognition as a global sport with which I had a particular involvement was in the development of our TV presence both in term of the quality of the broadcasts and the reach of the coverage. I was pleased also to see the impact of enhanced TV coverage on our sponsorship income. We have been fortunate to have had experts like Karel Jonak to guide and support us as we have developed our TV products and federations working with us to invest in our coverage.

As President, I had two specific personal objectives. The first was to make the very best use of the talents of the hard working people who make up the IOF Council. There had been a tendency in the past for the work to focus mainly on the President and Vice Presidents and I wanted to change that to make sure that we genuinely used the enthusiasm and knowledge of all Council members. Secondly, I tried to improve our engagement with our members, not least by taking Council meetings to a much wider range of countries. In both of these personal objectives I was trying to recognise that orienteering would only continue to grow if we were all, Council and members alike, working together and travelling in the same direction.

So many memories!

In terms of my outstanding memories of my time as President – there are so many – like the World Games in Cali, Colombia in 2013 when every control point in the sprint was guarded by a soldier with a Kalashnikov! Then there was the opportunity to meet IOC President Thomas Bach. I suppose though that my best times were when I was with our orienteering family attending World and European Championships in all our disciplines around the world. I even managed to go over the handlebars of my bike in the public races at the MTBO Championships in the Czech Republic!

I am just grateful to have been able to make a small contribution to development of the sport I have loved for over 50 years. Who would have thought that when my high school physical education teacher gave me a book on the sport of orienteering in 1967, that I would go on to have the privilege of leading the international federation? I am just grateful to all who supported me in my time as President – especially the hard working and talented IOF staff led by Tom Hollowell, my fellow Council members and all friends from Federations around the world. As now an Honorary President of the IOF, I wish the President, the Council and all our member federations every success for the future.

Brian Porteous, Honorary Life President, President 2012 – 2016