Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Watching the Swedish TV Orienteering Coverage


I watched the Swedish TV coverage of the sprint world cup races in Gothenberg. I thought the coverage was some of the best orienteering coverage I've seen. Personally, I'm not sure I like the "knock out" sprint format, but I think the coverage was strong.

You can see a clip of one of the semi final races below. The entire clip is about 10 minutes and gives you a good idea of what the entire coverage was like.

I watched the coverage and took a few notes. Among other things, I found that TV showed:

  • runners in action for 4:06 (just over half of the race time);
  • GPS tracking for 3:34;
  • a view of the empty terrain for just 0:25 (and nearly all of that came in just after the start).

That's pretty good - over half of the race time the cameras showed the runners in action. I think it is quite unusual for orienteering coverage to have so little time devoted to empty terrain, waiting for a runner to show up.

I watched two of the races (the one above and one of the finals) and counted how often each of the three commentators was talking. The commentators were: Rickard Ekman (a sports journalist), Anders Garderud (Olympic gold medalist and orienteer who runs for IFK Lidingo), and Helena Jansson (WOC gold medalist orienteer). For the most part, Ekman described what was going on. He was the play-by-play. Garderud and Jansson provided "color commentary." Ekman spoke the most. I didn't time each commentator. Instead, I counted how often they were leading the commentary. Ekman had the lead 27 times. Garderud was leading 18 times. Jansson was leading 18 times.

As a viewer, the balance between the color commentators and the play-by-play commentator felt about right.

People frequently criticize the knock out sprint format (mass start, no forking, first 2 finishers qualify for the next round) for being nothing but a group running around together. That's a valid criticism, but it is a bit of an over simplification. In the 8 minute race shown in the video, there are a couple of legs where people take different routes. So, there is some splitting up.

You can criticize the format for minimizing map reading, too. I think a lot of the runners just hung with the pack, looking at the map now and then. But, they did look at the map. If you watch the video, you'll see that they are looking at the map and they do so fairly often.

One way to think about the coverage is to think about how this 8 minute race compares to a race like Jukola. If you watch 8 minutes of Jukola coverage, how much of that is likely to be runners in the forest? How many times would you see a pack of Jukola runners splitting up on route choices?

Overall, I think the SVT coverage was very good. I thought this was especially interesting:

SVT commented that the format itself was interesting and that the production was OK, with some room for improvement (which we know). Last week-end the European Team Championships in Track & Field was held in Stockholm and the number of viewers for orienteering was in parity with the number of viewers for that event, which is a good number.

Also, the knockout sprint from Gothenburg was sent on Finnish TV (a 1 hour taped show sent at 10 PM Finnish Time) and had an average of 170 000 viewers (with a max of 200 000)! (Note, there are appr 40 000 members in the Finnish O Federation, so obviously around 150 000 "non-orienteers" found the production understandable and interesting.

I'll be interested to see how the TV-versions of orienteering develop. I hope we see more experimenting and I think it is moving in a generally positive direction.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 8:04 PM


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