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Leho Haldna: Way or no way to the Olympics?

The 10th World Games started few a days ago in Wroclaw, Poland, and orienteering events will be on the programme soon. The World Games are a multi-sport event, organised every four years by the International World Games Association (IWGA).  The IWGA has 37 international sport federations as members and 27 of them are on the Games programme in Wroclaw.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said that the World Games is a window for non-Olympic sport federations to present their sport to the IOC and in case the IOC feels the sport will fit into Olympic Games (OG) programme, then there is a chance to be selected for the OG. This is a fact that some sports from the World Games like sport climbing, baseball/softball and karate were selected as optional sports for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, as choices of the hosting city, Tokyo.

What is the position of orienteering in the long queue of sports dreaming to be in the OG? How big are our chances to be selected? My personal feeling is that we are not the first in the queue for the Summer Olympic Games, maybe we are somewhere in top 20. Obviously, we have no chance to be on the OG programme as a permanent sport and the only realistic chance is to be in the OG is as an optional sport. New sports on the OG programme needs strong support from a hosting city. Do we have a support from hosting cities already appointed or candidate cities in the future? Probably not.

What we could and have to do anyway today to be selected for OG in future? Short answer is that we need to be attractive and visible for IOC, sponsors and spectators. We need to develop our sport as an attractive TV-product and increase our global footprint. Our athletes and federations have to realise that the road to the Olympics is via The World Games, and The World Games are the highest level multi-sport event recognised by IOC where orienteering is on the programme. Unfortunately not all federations and athletes are supporting our common goal.

I would like to conclude on a positive note. There are some changes in the international sporting world supporting our ambitions. The current model is not sustainable in the long run because it is ignoring the reality. There are a lot of new and attractive sports in the world, including orienteering, working towards more recognition and inclusion into Olympic Games.

Leho Haldna
IOF President
World Games, Wroclaw


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