Orienteering is the latest sport to introduce new formats in an attempt to make key events more accessible to spectators and more attractive to television broadcasters. Traditionally, orienteering competitions were held in rural settings like forests, and athletes starts would be staggered, so that spectators would not know who was in the lead. 17 years ago the first sprint competition was added to the World Championship programme. Sprint races often take place in urban locations and the format requires really high running speed.
The International Orienteering Federation has drawn up plans for a third sprint discipline, where a city centre would host a series of races over a single day. Competitors will race each other in small groups, where all runners start at the same time and only the first few athletes across the line make it through to the next race. This format will work well for spectators as it will be obvious who has won, and the prospect of multiple races with thrilling finishes should result in greater TV coverage of events. The IOF polled their membership about the name for the new competition, and they voted for Knock-out Sprint.
The IOF is also reporting exciting growth in China, there are just under half a million people who take part in the sport and recently officials travelled to the southern province of Guangdong to conduct a development seminar. Agreement has also been reached that the province will host the final leg of the 2019 Orienteering World Cup.
Another sport with an unusual Chinese connection is Baseball. The Chinese national team has sent 30 of its players to play in an American professional baseball league. Every match day in 2018, 13 Chinese nationals will be included on the roster of the Texas AirHogs franchise. This tie-up has come about because John McLaren, the Airhogs manager, coached China at the 2013 and 2017 World Baseball Classics.
Baseball and Softball are also seeing accelerated growth with their new format of Baseball5. As no equipment is needed other than a rubber ball, it is an ideal introduction to the sport for young people in urban areas in less developed countries. There is no pitcher, the player on strike throws the ball towards the infield and then tries to make it safely to base. WBSC is reporting increasing interest in many unfamiliar territories, Tunisia and Kenya becoming the latest nations to commence Baseball5 programmes in schools. Kenyan women have benefitted from the donation by WBSC of 20 complete sets of softball kits and equipment and the national team sported the new kits during the East African Championship. Softball make its return to The World Games in the 2021 edition hosted by Birmingham, and is expected to be one of the most keenly contested sports in Alabama.
After missing out on inclusion for the Wroclaw 2017 programme, Racquetball will be delighted that the sport will return to the United States, after appearing in the inaugural edition in Santa Clara in 1981. However the energetic racket sport has experienced some bad luck with its forthcoming World Championship. It had to find a replacement host after the Chinese government delayed granting permission for the event to take place in Haining City. Cali in Colombia, which in 2013 hosted the first edition of The World Games to take place in South America, was given the honour. However it then emerged that the tournament venue, the Club Canasgordas had been unexpectedly demolished! So the tournament in August, will now hopefully take place in San Jose in Costa Rica without any further problems.
Tug of War has welcomed three new national federations as members of the Tug of War International Federation. Finland, Slovakia and Haiti, taking its total membership up to 74 countries. The Finns should be good at using strength to cross the line, after all this is the country that is the home of the annual Wife Carrying World Championship.
Brian Salmon for The World Games
The World Games is a multi-sport event staged every four years by the International World Games Association under the patronage of the International Olympic Committee. The 11th edition of The World Games will be held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 15-25 July 2021. 3,600 athletes from over 30 sports and 100 countries will take part in the Games.