By the time of WOC 97 in Grimstad in the south of Norway we knew that Great Britain would be staging the next World Championships. That meant a large GB team of officials going out to watch what happened behind the scenes, see what to do and what not to do, and push out as much publicity as possible. Helen and I were part of that team, and spent a hectic week spectating, competing and having all sorts of meetings.
This was another of those "high expectations, good results but not quite what we'd hoped". World Championships. The problem was actually worse than that. Four medals at the previous two World Championships meant that the British spectators expected a medal. No matter what the real expectations should have been, the number of medals was always going to be the test of how well we'd done at all World Championships to come. Yvette had injury problems beforehand, and was never quite up with the pace. Steve Hale was the other great hope, but he too wasn't quite up with the leaders. I seem to remember that this was a "peaked too late" problem and that just after WOC he won the Swedish Championships instead.
From the spectating viewpoint this was a pretty reasonable WOC. The weather was sunny all week, and the areas were generally runnable and not too hilly so the spectator races were enjoyable. The opening ceremony was memorable in the sense that it went on for ever and seemed to have little to do with orienteering. The commentary at each event included live feeds from the forest where a whispering commentator provided information on who was going through a particular control site. This was a bit strange at first, but ended up being quite entertaining. But it was the WOC song that really sticks in the memory. Instantly referred to as "Bushmen", since the chorus started with the line "We are bushmen", this was one of those annoying tunes that you end up humming all the way around a course and stops you concentrating properly. It was played at every opportunity at each event, and really deserves greater exposure to a world-wide audience. I greatly regret not buying the CD that was available at the time.
Whilst I was looking around for some background information it struck me that a lot of the events from the early days of the internet have effectively disappeared. Blair Trewin's site was great for events up to 1993, but he then settles for links to event sites that no longer exist. I can't find a full set of WOC 95 or WOC 97 results anywhere, and I think I'm about to discover that WOC 99 is the same. The IOF site appears to have everything from WOC 2001 onwards.
But anyway, the story has now come full circle and the spectator's tale has reached a World Orienteering Championships in Great Britain. There was only one question that anybody was really interested in: could Yvette win a gold medal at last?