In this modest proposal I would like to lay out the key arguments for promoting the virtual format as the headline competitive format for orienteering as an Olympic sport. Thanks to the effort of Peter Furucz, the founder and developer of Virtual-O, now the IOF leadership can promote a truly marketable product for inclusion in the Olympic Games in Paris 2024.
Youth appeal, a key factor for Olympic inclusion, is undeniably much stronger for a computer game than for outdoor activities these days. No wonder that the organisers of the Paris 2024 are open to the introduction of esports in the program.
Virtual orienteering solves the main concern of IOF’s leadership that the current version of orienteering is still difficult to televise and too complex to understand by outsiders not involved in the sport. Virtual-O fully fits the strategic direction of the IOF. In essence, it is the synthesis of the declared strategic directions. It is absolutely global, visible, attractive, simple, environmentally friendly, and easy to understand for everybody. It is perfectly positioned for the Olympics.
Some may argue that this move may require some additional compromises over and above the compromises that were needed to change orienteering championships from 90 minute struggles in some of the world’s most complex remote forests to a 15 minute run on asphalt in touristy cities on C courses.
We must have all the confidence that the uncompromising drive of the IOF leadership towards the Olympics will ensure that all the required compromises are met to make orienteering an absolutely positively definitely truly virtual sport.
This confidence is also based on the fact that this proposal is fully in line with IOF’s core strategy to meet orienteering’s potential audience in the cities, instead of trying to lure people into the forest. Bringing orienteering out of the forest to city parks was the first step. But that has been proven still not attractive enough for the masses of TV audiences.
To make orienteering attractive to a larger audience, especially TV audience, the IOF has to take orienteering where the people are.
Since most of the TV viewers are on the couch in the living room, orienteering must be brought to the couch!
Yes, there will be resistance in the forest. The supporters of the Ancien Régime will cry foul. They will try to cling to the obsolete view that orienteering at its best is one of the physically most demanding sports on earth.
We should not worry about them. The IOF leadership has a proven track record to ignore requests of groups of athletes regardless the number of world championship titles they may possess. Money talks. The siren call of the millions of dollars promised by Olympic participation talks louder than athletes. We can be confident that the IOF leadership will do their best to make orienteering virtual, if that what is needed to attract more money.
In addition, going virtual will solve many of the current problems of orienteering from long start lists, through following, till environmental impact.
What’s not to love about it?
You may read more detailed arguments for this proposal below.