Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Watching some Ski WOC TV


I've spent a bit of time watching the video from the Ski Orienteering WOC and been interested to see a couple of new (to me) ideas in action: the mixed sprint relay event and the use of the live headcam video. It has also been fun to see some strong performances from the US team.

Here's the sprint video:

I'm not sure what the competitors think of the mixed sprint relay format, but for TV it has potential. The teams were just 2 people, each skiing 3 legs. The total winning time was about 65 minutes. I don't know enough about ski orienteering to have any opinion about the technical demands of the format. When I look at the maps, it looks like a typical ski orienteering courses.

The sprint relay format has some nice features for TV coverage. It is easy to see who is in the lead. Of course, a team can be ahead at an exchange because they had the short fork (so they really aren't necessarily ahead in the race). But, as long as the forking isn't absurd, for the TV viewer I don't think it really matters. You can think of it as being like a NASCAR race where the car in the lead has older tires than the other cars, so it is in the lead on the track but won't be able to stay in the lead. It doesn't confuse the viewer. It gives the commentators something to talk about.

The WOC coverage featured live coverage from the course by having a good skier with a headcam who would ski behind some of the competitors. There were some technical problems (and better weather would have made the images easier to see), but the concept seems really good. It gives you a sense of the speed of the skiers and an interesting view to contrast with the fixed cameras with skiers going by).

I don't know how the details of the live headcam views. I guess they may have used a mobile phone network to send the images back. But, I really don't have any idea.

The sprint relay format lends itself to during-the-race interviews with competitors between legs. I think there's some real potential for those interviews to engage the viewers and make the event more alive. Short interviews also have the potential to fill time that might otherwise be filled with pictures of the empty ski tracks waiting for skiers to arrive.

The clip below is from the US team's blog. I think it gives you an idea of how during-the-race interviews could work:

Sprint Relay @ Ski WOC '11 from Cristina Luis on Vimeo.

Some athletes might balk at having an interview during the race, but I think most would be ok with it. Certainly it would help improve the TV coverage and that's a goal that orienteering athletes ought to support.

As an aside, I was glad to see frequent updates on the US team blog. OUSA has a (very modest) goal of having the blog updated twice a month. In the six months leading up to March 2011, the blog was only updated 5 times. Going forward, I hope they meet (or even exceed) the goal of two updates a month.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 10:50 AM


I followed the online coverage from Ski-WOC the whole week. Some technical problems early in the week with split times and some shaky pictures. I think most of this may have been caused by a combination of poor mobile network and bad weather. Also there was a lag between the video and "real time" results (10-15 min) - again probably caused by slow buffering.
Following the "big" relay it is obvious how interesting the GPS tracking can be in a close race. That would be an added bonus also for the Sprint Relay - if the athletes can be kept away from the big screen.
but this race was in Sweden and what was particularly absent from the coverage at the race site was spectators.
Hi! I was one of the athletes skiing the sprint relay and I just want to say that the sprint relay is the most funny of all the distances, also for the athletes! It's a first man to finish race, which means a lot of close man-man fights and there is always happening something. It's also a relay so you're skiing for your nation and another person and you are also allowed to do "3 races" which you're getting the fun 3 times!
I agree that this has a lot of potential and I liked your comparison with a NASCAR race. But I think the last leg should be straight. That will make it even more funny with the man-man race in the end and you'll get the same excitement before the last leg, who is actually leading. And I'm pretty sure the athletes not just would follow each other on the straight leg. Last year we had a unforked last leg at the sprint relays and the athletes still did independent routechoices. Anything can happen in the end of a race, a fall, a missed punch etc. So you will always try to do what you think is the best routechoice and hopefully win the race before the finish.
I think that interviews between the legs only will give the athletes a bigger challenge and that it would be great for the spectators and maybe some TV viewers.
There should also be a spectator control for where it's possible to see the athletes from the arena. The gps tracking should be shown during the entire race, but the changing area should be placed "behind" the big screen. But I also think it is important that the commentators know which forking the different teams are having and also how much time differences it is between the forkings.
At least I think this shows that orienteering sports are having a big potential as an interesting spectator and also TV sport if we only develop it a bit more

/Hans Jørgen Kvåle
but this race was in Sweden and what was particularly absent from the coverage at the race site was spectators.

This only shows how small a sport Ski-O really is :(
There are considerably fewer athletes doing this - even in the Nordic countries. I have no numbers but my guess is that ski-O in Sweden may count it´s active athletes in a few hundred (if even that) so the base for spectators is quite small.
In Foot-O at least you will get other active orienteers (there for running the spectator races) as viewers. In Ski-O you´ll only get a few family members, friends, coaches and officials as spectators (and the odd hard-core ski-orienteer).
Online coverage was great this year so there´s definitely potential - both for ski-O and foot-O - but how many viewers outside the hard-core orienteers will we actually get?
I was one out of three for the production team responsible persons for this event, and I can promise, this was just the very first small step in the development of ski-O as a TV sport. This time, we used almost only "homebuilt" amateur camera transmitting solutions and editing equipment. Actually, to be honest was all the production during the whole championship week just balancing between a total flop, but thanks to an amazing team of young volounteers, everything worked out fine.

Back to my point then. Ski-O can be just as interesting as Biathlon on for a TV-spectator, and can you mention how many people that is actually practising that sport.... Just give ski-O some more years with focus on development and it will be in the second next olympics, trust me!
Per, thanks for the comment. I was impressed by the production. Obviously, there is room for improvement. But, I think that overall it was great. The skier with the headcam was fantastic. That it was all done as "homebuilt" is also impressive.

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