Tuesday, July 01, 2008

JWOC (and Database) Up and Running

Here we go again with more reports from another World Championships – but this time it’s JWOC, the Junior World Orienteering Championships in Gothenburg. The first thing to say is that the Maprunner website has now been updated and includes a fully searchable JWOC Database in a similar format to the WOC Database.

This is my first time at a JWOC, and it’s not something I’d normally expect to be at. But next year I am the IOF Event Adviser for JWOC 2009 in Italy, so this is a chance to find out exactly what is needed and how JWOC differs from the World Championships themselves. A quick visit to the Event Centre at an army camp this morning felt almost as if nothing was happening, with little sign of what was going on other than in the Event Office. This had the normal stream of last-minute queries, plus a host of competitors and officials gathering to use the wireless internet access.

A short bus trip to the start area for the sprint race and things began to look a bit more hopeful. Teams were setting up tents around the start, even if things were still quite low-key. The ten minute walk to the Race Arena in a football stadium was surprising mainly because it was through a large wooded area with outcrops of bare rock and no sign of the “80% urban terrain” promised in the details. The Arena gradually filled up, and as we reached 12:30, first start time, it began to feel like something was happening. Even so there are very few people present, and to an outsider it’s probably quite difficult to work out what is going on.

The terrain from what can be seen near the finish turns out not to be anywhere near as “urban” as expected. Walking along the road that passed the last few controls on each course there were runners coming down quite steep semi-wooded rock outcrops to pick up the road on the way to controls spread around groups of cottages. Only those making mistakes (of which there seemed quite a few) ended up on the wrong side of the road and in the housing estates and car parks. Even the last control on the children’s play area caught some out as they ran around in the bushes behind it. Having had a chance to run the course later in the spectator race it turned out to be quite an interesting combination of houses surrounded by rocky outcrops and woodland.

Talking of the spectator race this would have been really quite a select event if it was really restricted to those who turned up to spectate, since the number of spectators was quite small. Apart from the expected small groups of proud parents the only real group to make their presence felt was from Denmark, and it was almost impossible to tell that the race was taking part in Sweden. Loud outbreaks of cheering, clapping and flag-waving met each Danish runner as they entered the football stadium and sprinted the final few metres on fast running provided by the artificial turf. The only thing to slow people down was the 90 degree bend they had to negotiate half way down the run-in. They then passed through the latest high-tech finish arch, which not only had a light beam for timing but also a magic device to read the runner number from the bib. Final details asked runners to use eight safety pins to ensure the bib stayed on during the race. The good news for the Danes was that all their noise had the desired effect, with gold for Emma Klingenberg in the women’s race and bronze in the men’s race. Stephan Kodeda of the Czech Republic won the men’s race, with six different countries represented in the top six including a notable fifth place for Andrea Seppi of Italy.

And then it was off (via a complicated arrangement of buses and trams) to the Liseberg amusement park for the opening ceremony. Being a true connoisseur of such things, this got several aspects right including being relatively short and avoiding the temptation to display any form of traditional dance activity. What it did have was a very loud rock band and a lot of bemused locals looking on as they tried to work out what was going on. It also had Kent Olsson to declare JWOC open, looking somewhat older and larger than I remember him. He was World Champion in the Classic Race in 1987 in France. I know. I was there.

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