World Orienteering Day 2018 – 4 months to go!

The first World Orienteering Day in 2016 was a huge success, with more than 250 000 participants taking part in orienteering events all over the world. On May 24th 2017, the second World Orienteering Day took place worldwide. It became an even greater success than the year before, with 288 000 participants at nearly 2300 locations in 79 countries.

We are grateful to all the organisers of World Orienteering Day activities worldwide. And special recognition goes to our sponsors involved in World Orienteering Day 2017 – Silva Sweden, SPORTident, Emit, Bryzos and OCAD. We are very happy to announce that all these companies will continue as Event Sponsors for World Orienteering Day 2018. Also, we will have at least one new sponsor – Nokian Tyres.

Now, only 4 months remain until the 3rd edition of the WOD. World Orienteering Day is scheduled for Wednesday May 23rd, 2018. Due to other activities in individual countries, it has proven to be difficult to organize all events globally on a single day. So, this year World Orienteering Day events and activities can be organized and registered for any day from May 23rd to May 29th.

Will a world record be reached once again? How can we continue to improve this event? We have spoken with IOF World Orienteering Day Project Manager Jenny Nilsson to find some answers.

What is Your previous experience with WOD and how do You see this event?

Last year I participated in WOD as an orienteer together with my family here in Karlstad. And in 2016 we participated in the event in Gothenburg in the south of Sweden. I have a 10 year old daughter who is totally hooked on the orienteering and a 7 years son who is interested in other sports as well as orienteering. I see WOD as a great event to promote orienteering and engage with young people. It’s a great event, but at the same time I think we can do more to promote it.

What has been done organising WOD2018 and what are the next steps?

Currently we are working on the WOD2018 newsletter, which will be published every month before the event. Also, we’re updating the WOD webpage and discussing with the event partners.

Registration for the WOD2018 events is open, but we have only a few registered events so far. We would like to encourage and ask the organisers to register their WOD2018 events.

What things should be changed to make WOD a bigger and even better event?

First thing, I think we should cooperate more with schools. It’s a good idea to use the opportunity for organizing WOD events during a whole week in 2018. For schools it can be difficult to arrange an event on one particular day. Such flexibility should encourage the sports teachers in the schools, the orienteering clubs and the local volunteers to participate.

To attract the schools, we need to start our preparation work earlier. We should start to talk with the schools in February or March, and not 2 weeks before the WOD. It’s time consuming to persuade the school management and the teachers to organise an event in the school. Usually it takes a lot of time to plan such events in the schools as they need to reschedule their curriculum activities. And it’s better for us to arrange a WOD event during the school time, so we can show orienteering to more children.

Second, we should find a way to motivate all orienteers to arrange a local WOD event, also the national federations to involve their members. If we’d look at the WOD statistics from the last year, for example, here in Sweden we definitely could do more. Comparing with the other countries, Sweden is a much larger “orienteering nation”, but the participation figures here are not as high as in some smaller countries.

Without doubt the WOD was done well in previous years, but still there is room for improvement.

Another thought is that we should think “out of the box” when organising WOD events. We shouldn’t only focus on doing a traditional “forest” orienteering race for WOD. In order to attract more non-orienteers and school children we should offer to try orienteering in a more playful, non-traditional way. We should engage more with the school teachers: they spend more time with children and know better ways to attract youngsters. Furthermore, we should produce more maps of the school yards, football pitches or nearby maps, instead of the traditional forest maps. Sometimes children and beginner adults have weak relations to the forest, they might be afraid of going into a “forest” event.

We need to be more active in social media: update with the hashtag #worldorienteeringday more often, promote the pre-registered events, do flash-backs to what we’ve done last year. We have good social media accounts, which are heavily used around the event, but almost nothing is happening there during the rest of the year, only a few weeks before and after the event. We have a real opportunity here and  should communicate with our audience in a more consistent way.

Also we would like WOD to be promoted more locally: in the local newspapers, websites, billboards. We need more communication with local journalists before the event. Maybe they won’t be interested, but at least we can try.

What should be done to encourage all member federations to arrange more events during the WOD?

I think we should find good examples of producing a WOD event and communicate these to the potential WOD events. Also, we have to be more active in helping to produce the WOD events.

One of the tasks is to prepare a few examples of let’s say “standards” how a successful WOD event could be arranged. Then the potential organisers could spend less time on developing the ideas and more time on producing the event itself. Also, we could produce some materials in advance and use them all around the world. For example, we could draw sample maps of a gym, a football pitch or a maze, and this could be done even a with sample course layout.

These pre-made materials will help to save time and efforts for the organisers, especially in the smaller orienteering nations or clubs. Off course, we do not say that everybody should use them, but if anybody wants – You’re welcome.

What is the main goal of the WOD2018?

We aim to attract 500 000 participants at 5000 different places and 100 countries during the WOD2018. It’s a very high objective, but we can achieve it if we work in a structured way.

Yet the main goal of the WOD stays the same as in the all previous years – to attract non-orienteers to our sport, especially children and youths, and make orienteering more visible.

We should look at the WOD statistics more closely in the future. We shouldn’t focus just on the overall participation numbers, but measure how many children and youth participated and how many non-orienteers participated in WOD. These groups should be the most important for us. Of course, WOD is a good event for “ordinary” orienteers and they are all welcome, but the main target group is different. We want to attract newcomers, encourage them to try orienteering in a playful way while making our sport more visible worldwide and make them part of something bigger!


Picture: Ulf Palm