Thursday, July 13, 2006

WOC-15: How it all started

I guess I should start with WOC 76 in Scotland. Not that I knew anything about it at the time, but this was what got me started orienteering. The event itself appeared to get little publicity and I was certainly unaware it was happening. But somehow a film got made about it, and the film got shown on television over Christmas, and suddenly orienteering in Great Britain started growing. I vaguely remember that Chris Brasher was somewhere behind the scenes writing articles in newspapers and getting the film shown on television. Whatever, there was an increase in the number of people orienteering in 1977, and one of those newcomers was Brian Johnson. Brian attended the first ever Scottish 6-Day event in 1977, which was specifically organised to make use of all the areas mapped for WOC 76. Brian just happened to be a teacher at my school. He convinced me to try orienteering, and my first event was on 27th November 1977 at Denny Wood in the New Forest.

Looking at the WOC 76 results now there are many familiar names both in the GB team and elsewhere. Geoff Peck and Carol McNeill led the way for GB, and these, along with Chris Hirst, were the names that I was to become familiar with as I gradually found out what orienteering was all about. In those days there was only a long race and a relay. Egil Johansen of Norway won the men's race, Liisa Veijalainen of Finland won the women's race, and Sweden won both relays. This was still a time where Norway, Sweden and Finland dominated the results and most of the rest of the world were nowhere. In the men's race the first 18 places went to four NOR, four SWE, four FIN, three SUI and three CZE. For the women it was four FIN, four SWE, four NOR, four SUI and one DEN in the top 17. One thing is for certain: there will be a much greater spread of countries in with a chance in Denmark this year.

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