WOD in Canberra, Australia

Taking events to the people – Canberra reaches top ten cities for World Orienteering Day events.

Turkey managed a staggering 86,000 participants in the second World Orienteering Day (WOD) event on May 24th 2017, with its capital Ankara staging 51 events and Istanbul 34. Such phenomenal success for such a “novice” country begs the question – are we reaching out to new people?


Australia was pleased that its national capital, Canberra, managed to reach the top ten world cities with 16 events – beaten only by four Turkish cities and Belgrade (28) and Oslo (19). Surprisingly, Canberra had more events than Stockholm (6) (the capital of Sweden, where Orienteering was born) and English orienteering capital Sheffield (14) and the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) produced one of the “densest” concentrations of events anywhere in the world with 16 events within a ten kilometre radius, and 765 participations.

(insert map “Canberra – 16 events”)




The secret for Canberra was to encourage and support local members to stage small simple local events. In four public schools we inspired teachers to hold PE classes. At one after-school care centre we encouraged a simple activity. We persuaded two private schools to switch their weekly Orienteering training session from a Tuesday to the Wednesday for that week. One medical centre was co-opted to provide a 5-minute fitness function for the accounting firm upstairs and a Salvation Army rehabilitation centre held a fun “treasure hunt” for its residents. As the date grew closer individuals put their hands up with one worker putting on a mini event for her eleven workmates in a nearby park. We even had one member, inspired by the midnight event, return with a few friends the next afternoon for an impromptu second go in the daylight – that event was added to the total on the day.


In addition, we had four low key official events – their locations and times varied to provide for as wide an audience as possible – with events at 7:00am before work in the Parkes Parliamentary Triangle, at 11:00am at a university, at 12:00 midday for classic bush lovers and a 6:00pm head-torch event for rogainers and hard-core enthusiasts. The “First–in-The–World” Haig Park event at 12:01am also gained valuable media coverage with one radio, two newspaper and one TV mention.


In addition, we experimented with assisting at remote events. We believed we could use World Orienteering Day to stimulate Orienteering in areas where it has never been done before. To test this theory, we contacted a friend of a friend of a friend who is working at Casey Station in Antarctica. Importantly, he had never done Orienteering before and knew nothing about it. We successfully managed to exchange email addresses and within a few days he had supplied a basic fire safety map of a building and we were able to draw up a simple indoor course using Purple Pen. Within days eleven people who had never been Orienteering in their lives were experiencing the excitement and dizziness of racing up and down stairs thousands of kilometres away from Australia. It now only takes imagination to spread Orienteering throughout the world.


Our goal was not to hold quality events. None of them had SI units or E-sticks, for example. Many had simple ribbons or laminated paper squares rather than control flags. In most no score was kept or result published. The unashamed purpose was simple publicity. Whilst total numbers were considerably down on last year the number of events was up and, we think, the reach into the community was actually greater. The goal was not to have huge numbers entering but rather to make as many people as possible know what Orienteering is and to talk about it with their friends. That way Orienteering – the sport that we love – will flourish here in Canberra and the world.

David Poland (Orienteering ACT, Australia)