In a surprise press release today the Institute for Advanced Physical Research (IAPR) has announced the outcome of a year-long survey into membership, entry and results software used by orienteering clubs and federations around the world.
The shock results show that Year 2000 (Y2K) problems with the hundreds of different software systems have proved impossible to fix in a consistent manner, and a major change in the structure of events will be necessary in order to overcome the potential chaos this will cause.
The research has shown that dates of birth are handled incorrectly by nearly half the systems examined. This means that age classes are calculated incorrectly. Tests have already detected a system which placed all entrants over the age of 10 into the M/W100 class, and a second system which will only allow negative age groups (M/W -35 for example) when used after 1st January 2000.
Following frantic last-minute activity, researchers Howard Orchard and Alberto Ximenes have come up with a new age group structure which they believe will solve the problem. The solution relies on the fact that the internal representation of dates of birth within the binary (1s and 0s) storage system used by each software system can be relied on to be correct. Therefore a move to use age groups based on powers of two will avoid the Y2K problems, and will allow age group events to continue as at present. The suggested new age groups at all orienteering events world-wide are therefore M/W8, M/W16, M/W32, M/W64 and M/W128.
'We recognise that this is not an ideal solution, but we feel that drastic action is necessary' says Dr. Orchard. 'There will obviously be problems with the huge numbers of competitors in M/W32, and increasingly with M/W64 as the orienteering population ages. This may mean that start times at all events will need to be extended. In addition we expect significant opposition from 64-year-olds who were looking forward to moving up an age group on January 1st 2000, but who are now stuck in the same age group for another 64 years.'
The researchers have suggested to the International Orienteering Federation that this new age class system is adopted world-wide with immediate effect. A final decision is expected to be announced by the IOF on 1st April 2000.