Monday, July 14, 2008

TV or not TV...

Well that was fun. Everything about the Sprint Race looked good, with a fantastic old town centre as a start and finish area, a detailed area of parkland and gardens right next to the town to provide some intricate control picking, some really tricky long route choices and more TV cameras and radio controls than I could believe. Juggling the internet technology proved quite hard as you ended up trying to keep three or four split time windows open at the same time as leaving the live TV feed visible. The TV quality via the internet was a bit variable, and the radio controls seemed to stop updating occasionally, but overall there was certainly enough to keep me interested for both races.

Czech TV seemed to settle for presenting the event as a race rather than anything more complicated, which seemed to work fine. There was no tracking, and only brief glimpses of a map, so the navigational element of the coverage was minimal. But for sprint races you can get quite a good feel for what is going on just by watching someone standing still and panicking for two or three seconds just the wrong side of a flower bed. And there was certainly some pretty impressive control flow to watch as well as contrasting techniques for crossing the water feature. Trying to make the coverage any more complicated, especially in real time and with such a short winning time, probably isn't worth the effort. Maybe it would have been interesting to focus in the big route choice decision from the start triangle: left or right? The first starter went left, most of the rest seemed to go right. Perhaps the Czech commentary picked up on this. They certainly spotted Emil Wingstedt leaving out a control, although this led to little more than slightly raised voices talking a little faster than normal. We got to see people clearly running very fast and also clearly having to navigate very carefully. Overall I thought it was great, but I guess the question is whether it would attract non-orienteers.

In terms of results it looks like a game of two halves: men and women. For the men there were 11 countries in the top 12 places, with many of the lesser nations such as Slovakia, Lithuania, Austria and the Ukraine fighting for top places. Khramov and Hubmann were simply in a class of their own, but the next 30 runners finished within a minute. The women's results show a different pattern. In what should surely be the most open women's race of the Championships the top 17 places all went to runners from the traditional orienteering strongholds (allowing myself licence to include Great Britain and France in there). The first "minor" nation was China in 18th place. Two of the three Chinese women mispunched, but they can clearly run pretty fast. Surely the sprint will be where they finally break through, but how long will we have to wait?

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