Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, July 08, 2002

Fiasco in Sweden


Vlad suggested a blog topic "OK, how about an op-ed about the infamous queue at Men's Control 4 at the World Cup?"

Sounds like a good one.

First, some background for anyone not familiar with the 4th control at the World Cup race

The race was an "ultra long distance" race with a mass start, but only one e-punch at the 4th control. The pack arrived at the 4th control and there was chaos. The crowd was too big for one punch. The control was in a depression, making getting out once you'd punched even tougher. Some runners waited and punched. Some runners just went ahead and kept running. People, including Bjornar Valstad, yelled "let's run to the next control" (i.e. without punching). About 15 runners did that. Some runners ran ahead, but then turned around and went back and punched at the 4th control. Valstad was one of the runners who turned around and ran back.

Making the situation even more difficult the course had a "gate." The gates were places where only the top X runners could continue. To make it through the first gate, you had to be in the top 59 runners. If you were the 60th runner, you weren't allowed to continue no matter how close to the leaders you were.

At the finish, the Norwegian team protested. The runners who'd decided to continue without punching the 4th control were disqualified. Carsten Jorgensen of Denmark was the highest placed of these runners -- he crossed the line in 4th.

Jorgensen is annoyed with the Norwegian protest. Afterall, it was some of the Norwegians who were encouraging runners to keep going. Jorgensen's disqualification hurts him in the overall World Cup standings (even after being DQ'd he is ranked 9th overall).

What a mess.

The organizers, including the IOF controller, thought the runners would be spread out by the 4th control and only one punch would be necessary. Whoops. They sure screwed up.

What do I think about all of this?

The best solution is to throw out all the results. It wasn't a fair competition. There isn't any question of that.

I'd like to see the organizers refund the competitors' entry fees. The organizers screwed up, the organizers ought to pay a real price.

The jury didn't make the best solution. Why? They must have thought it was more important to have results than a fair competition. (Reminds me of the jury at the Chicago A-meet this spring and the fiasco on the green course).

The organizers screwed up. They made a decision that the control only needed one punch. They thought about it and decided the field would be spread out. The problem is they didn't think about the "risk" of the decision. If they were right, the competition would be fine, but if they were wrong, it'd be a disaster. If they'd thought about the risk, they'd have put more e-punch units at the 4th control.

Organizers need to think about risk when they plan their events. The biggest risk is probably a mis-placed control. So, organizers ought to put a lot of effort into making sure a control isn't misplaced.

Finally, I wonder what would have happened if exactly the same mistake was made by organizers in the U.S. Would the web be buzzing with people criticizing the U.S., saying we couldn't organize a world class event? If something like this had to happen, I'm glad the screw up happened in Sweden.

What a mess.

posted by Michael | 8:26 PM


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