IOF’s Sixth Decade

Today we celebrate IOF’s 60th birthday!

The IOF was founded on 21st May 1961 at a Congress held in Copenhagen, Denmark. There were 10 founding national federations: Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, the Federal Republic of Germany, the German Democratic Republic, Finland, Hungary, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

Ten years ago, IOF published a special 50th-anniversary commemorative issue of its magazine Orienteering World, and celebrated with an IOF-flag parachute drop into one of the World Championship arenas in the Savoie Region of France.

To mark IOF’s 60th anniversary, we are looking back over the past ten years with a series of feature articles. IOF President Leho Haldna and his predecessor Brian Porteous have reflected on IOF’s achievements and development over the decade, and their contributions will be published in the coming days.

So to start off, what has been going on in the IOF world over the past ten years? Read on!

The start of the decade

In 2012 IOF had 74 members, 22 of them Provisional Members. Åke Jacobson, IOF’s 6th President who came into office in 2004, retired in 2012 and was succeeded by Brian Porteous, Great Britain.

The IOF Congress that year decided to introduce the Mixed Sprint Relay as a new format in Orienteering, and following trials it was added to the World Championships programme. The first competition was in Scotland in 2015 and was won by Denmark.

2013 was regarded as a ‘landmark year’ for TV coverage, with the World Championships Sprint in Finland seen as the high point. IOF had earlier established a ‘TV Project’, with Sports Director Björn Persson in charge, to develop the style and content of full-race TV coverage. Also in 2013, the new speed-format TempO was introduced into the World TrailO Championships.

New sponsor, increased Regional development

In 2014 IOF signed a 3-year sponsorship contract with Nokian Tyres, a relationship that has been extended and continues today.

IOF formed a new Commission for Youth and Regional Development in 2014. At that time there was rapid growth in orienteering activity in SE Europe and along the Mediterranean coast, as well as a lot of development in S. America.

Barbro Rönnberg retired as IOF Secretary General at the end of 2014 after 18 years in the post, and Björn Persson moved on in his career after 8 years as Sports Director. Tom Hollowell was appointed as the new Secretary General.

Secretariat moves to Sweden

A major review of IOF’s management led to a move of the Secretariat to Karlstad, Sweden in 2015. By this year, the number of IOF member nations had increased to 80.

The concept of splitting the World Championships into separate ‘sprint’ and forest’ programmes (in alternate years) was launched in 2015, and work started to determine the additional Sprint format that would be needed.

Brian Porteous retired from the IOF in 2016; he was first elected to the IOF Council in 2004. He was succeeded as President by Leho Haldna, Estonia, whose Council service started even earlier, in 2002. The term of office for IOF Council members was extended to four years, with a view to providing more stability.

In 2016 a review of IOF members was undertaken, resulting in the membership of 10 inactive nations being terminated. This left the total at 70 – 65 Full Members and 5 Provisional.

World Orienteering Day

‘WOD’ was introduced in 2016. It was marked at 2,013 locations in 81 countries and territories, with in all 252,927 participants. Nowadays extended to a week (even 2 weeks this year!), it has proved very successful, enjoying increases of more than 10% in participation each year since then.

In 2016 a new Team Relay was introduced in the World TrailO Championships, where also digital technology began to be used for field recording.

2017 – 2018: substantial TV progress

TV coverage increased substantially, as did viewing numbers for the web-TV output produced by IOF at World Championships and World Cup rounds. The World SkiO Championships in Russia were televised live for the first time. MTB Orienteering introduced a new format, Mass Start, and this discipline too enjoyed live TV coverage for a Sprint race in Lithuania.

The new Knock-out Sprint format was introduced in 2018 at the World Cup Final in Prague, and received great acclaim.

In 2018 the IOF Congress approved the IOF Strategic Directions 2019-2022, covering IOF’s Vision, Mission, Main Goal, Values and Focus Areas. This Council-led document embodied a structured and focused approach to development, based on the Vision “Orienteering is the most attractive adventure-based sport for all ages”. Alongside the Congress, the 2nd Global Development Conference was held, attracting 102 delegates from 38 nations. On this occasion Peo Bengtsson was presented with IOF’s Global Development Award.

And so to the present

The first ‘forest WOC’ in the new split world championship model was staged in Norway in 2019. With TV coverage in all Nordic countries, an estimated 1.5 million viewers watched the Relay event on TV. China staged the World Cup Finals in 2019, with 37 nations represented. The fourth World Orienteering day had 398,712 participants taking part in one of 2,216 events organized in 85 different countries and territories.

And then in 2020 the Corona pandemic spread across the world, and international elite competition had to stop. We still await the first Sprint WOC, planned to be held in Denmark and now postponed to 2022. IOF is surviving in relatively good health, as illustrated by the successful 2021 World SkiO Championships and recent European Orienteering Championships. Soon, let’s hope, full competition programmes in all disciplines can resume, and without any restrictions.

The outstanding athletes of the decade

And who were the stars who made all the headlines in the decade? The answer comes in a later article!