IOF claimed new World Record after failing own aspiration to set one

In my last post about World Orienteering Day I expressed my doubts that anybody outside the IOF is really interested in the World Orienteering Day(s) for achieving another “World Record” of most participants on a multi venue orienteering event.

But let’s assume for a moment that somebody, a potential sponsor, a journalist, or IOC official gets interested in this metric. If they start to scratch the surface of IOF propaganda, they are in for a nasty surprise: the world records claimed are not verified despite the original aspiration of the IOF. In addition, the underlying numbers show failing participation masked by the unbelievably large numbers from Turkey.

The failed aspiration

People interested in offbeat world records traditionally look for the Guinness World Records as guidance. People looking for an independent confirmation of a verified orienteering participation record are in for a surprise:

The verified world record for most participants belong to a 2003 school event by the Swiss Orienteering Association, not to the WOD 2016 or 2017 as claimed by IOF press releases.

WOD - Guiness - full window

(see the above link here)

The IOF was of course aware of this record. In December 2015 it clearly stated that
“In connection with the World Orienteering Day 2016, the IOF has a vision to set a new Guinness World Record. The current record is from the WOC 2003 in Switzerland, when 207,979 young people at 1381 locations ran an orienteering course. “. 

The IOF leadership set out to break the Guinness World Record, but failing it just kept boasting with an “IOF” World Record. Just another example of the IOF propaganda claiming results even when they fail their own aspirations.

WOD IOF World Record

It is unclear if the IOF has actually tried to break the official Guinness World Record, but did not succeed with verification, or did not even try to deliver on its aspiration. But the aspiration was clear – and the IOF failed to achieve it. Yet, the IOF leadership kept talking about new world records both in 2016 and in 2017. Not a very sportsmanly approach, to say the least…

Of course, it is not easy to break a verified world record. Surprisingly, there are rules. Evidence required includes “For a mass participation record we require Stewards to supervise groups of 50 or fewer participants […] You need to upload all Steward Statements as part of your evidence. If your mass participation record involves more than 5,000 people, the counting process must be done by an auditing firm. etc, etc.”

So there could be very good reasons why an event like the WOD, focused more on promotion of the sport, does not attempt to achieve a verified world record. The focus of WOD should be on participation and fun, not on administration.

But then why claim new “world records”? Whom are we kidding?

Unfortunately, verification (or lack of it) is only part of the story.

The falling numbers

If we still assume as above that somebody, a potential sponsor, a journalist, or IOC official gets interested in this participation metric, they would quickly realise that 30% of the WOD 2017 participation numbers are coming from Turkey (86,436 of 288,007). In addition, participation in Turkey has increased by 75% from 2016 to 2017 (49,408 to 86,436).

Turkey’s performance is clearly dominating the worldwide trends, so they need to stripped out to see the underlying trends. Here comes the next surprise for people following only the IOF headlines: participation numbers are falling. Below is a zoomed graph to show this trend clearly.

WOD participation record v2

This is not a trend one could boast with, but it is completely hidden by the veil of Turkish participation, and the relentless communication of great achievements by the IOF leadership.

It seems that the IOF shoots itself in the foot with all the record claims in WOD communication. It is done to increase interest in the achievement of the sport’s leadership. Yet, anybody who develops an interest in these numbers quickly faced with the fact that the claims are neither verifiable, nor they show the real underlying trends.

It is difficult to imagine that the orienteering could benefit from this style of WOD communication in the long run, and could attract more sponsors and supporters.

So what is the point?


Unfortunately, there is even more to this WOD story. There are serious questions popping up when one takes a closer look at the WOD website.

That is a topic for my next post.

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