(This is an article I posted to the now-defunct O-Net in 1997. Even I had forgotten what I wrote, but it’s interesting to read it now given what has been going on recently.) The more I read about orienteering in the Olympics the less keen I get to see it there. Continued talk of bribery and corruption, along with the demands of TV, lead me to conclude that any Olympic orienteering event would have very little to do with sport and everything to do with commercialism. But if we must proceed along this route then we need to find a type of orienteering where bribery can play little if any part. Presumably the main advantage of seeing the course before the event is in being able to select the optimum route between each control.
What we need is an event where route choice plays little if any part, but map reading is still important. It would also be useful if prior knowledge of the terrain was of little importance. I would suggest that the closest we come to this at present is in Sprint-O races, held on what would normally be considered technically easy terrain (much of South East England!). This tends to put the emphasis on hard straight running, ensuring that you are going in the right direction. We might need to restrict the maximum leg length, since this would limit route choice. An ideal map would probably have lots of paths and vegetation features. Small contour features would be a bonus, but large hills are out since they shift the emphasis from the map to running ability.
Apparently the race needs to be short to fit the attention span of the average American TV viewer. A winning time of 15 minutes is probably enough.
I seem to have ended up with something close to the current World Park-O competition. Now we can start adding the frills:
a) Do not put control codes on the controls. Elite orienteers should know when they are at the right feature. (Wrong, ALL orienteers should know when they are at the right feature.)
b) As in a), but with extra control flags scattered randomly through the terrain. A rule such as ‘at least three control flags within the circle’ would seem possible. Given a reasonably open area with good visibility this should lead to some interesting problems to be solved as you navigate in oxygen debt towards a sea of control flags.
Quite by accident I seem to have invented a cross between sprint-O and precision-O. It’s got map reading, it’s got running, it can be staged in the nearest public park, it could be quite exciting and it should be possible to develop the TV side as well.
Given the statement in the first paragraph, I formally register a world-wide claim to royalties from the use of this concept, or any derivation of it, at any orienteering event held after 26 April 1997