World Orienteering Day is an awareness holiday often celebrated annually in May, on a date set by the International Orienteering Federation (I.O.F.). It falls on the first day of World Orienteering Week, and usually after the World Orienteering Championships. This year, World Orienteering Day will be celebrated on May 8 to raise awareness of orienteering among young people, and encourage participants and orienteering activities in schools. Orienteering as a task has been in existence since the 19th century, and the I.O.F. established this day in 2006 to increase the visibility and accessibility of the sport.
History of World Orienteering Day
Orienteering is not the most commonly talked about sport, and the majority of us can admit to never even hearing about it before. It could even come as a shock that you may have caught glimpses of it on popular T.V. shows like “Survivor” or “The Amazing Race.”
Simply put, orienteering refers to any sport that requires navigational skills while moving at speed in unfamiliar terrain, using a map and compass for guidance. Participation in the sport can be individual or in groups depending on the rules of the game. The most popular form of the sport is foot orienteering, however, several other forms of it have come into existence like mountain orienteering, ski orienteering, and even bike orienteering.
This world-renowned sport found its humble beginnings in the military. Orienteering was first used at the Swedish Military Academy Karlberg in 1886 to describe the crossing of unknown land with the aid of a map and compass. It slowly grew from a military training activity to a competitive sport for the military and civilians, and the invention of inexpensive compasses in the 1930s skyrocketed the popularity of the sport.
After World War II, the sport spread across Europe to Asia, North America, and Oceania, and by the late 1900s, 10 European nations and their representing orienteering organizations came together to form the International Orienteering Federation (I.O.F.). Since then, the I.O.F. has founded many other orienteering federations, enabling the development of the national and world championships.
The federation established World Orienteering Day in 2016 to increase awareness of the sport among young adults, increase the number of participants, and help school teachers implement the sport in a fun way by providing maps, orienteering exercises, and equipment.
World Orienteering Day timeline
The first civilian orienteering competition is held in Norway.
The International Orienteering Federation (I.O.F.) is founded by 10 nations on May 21 at a congress in Copenhagen, Denmark.
The World Orienteering Championships (W.O.C.) is first organized by the I.O.F. in Fiskars, Finland.
The I.O.F. establish World Orienteering Day to kick off World Orienting Week.
World Orienteering Day FAQs
When and where is the World Orienteering Championships 2022?
In 2022, the International Orienteering Federation (I.O.F.) will be organizing the World Orienteering Championships (W.O.C.) in partnership with Nokian Tyres in Denmark. The competition is set to be held from June 29 to July 3.
When is World Orienteering Week?
As we mentioned earlier, World Orienteering Day kicks off World Orienteering Week. The latter event is organized annually by the I.F.O., and this year it will be held between May 11 and May 17, which are coincidentally the dates of the first-ever World Orienteering Week.
Is the World Orienteering Championships held annually?
The World Orienteering Championships (W.O.C.) used to be held every two years from its inception in 1966 up until 2003. Now the event is organized every year with the format of the championship alternating every two years — even years hosting sprint format events and odd years hosting forest format events.
World Orienteering Day Activities
Participate in an event
On this day, several orienteering organizations across the world partner with the I.O.F. to sponsor a variety of events across different locations. You can visit the I.O.F. website to see the list of events happening today and throughout this week. Pick an event of your choice that aligns with your skillset and experience, sign up with friends and family, and enjoy the day!
Register for an event
The I.O.F. encourages all related clubs, societies, and organizations to register their orienteering event on their site. Also if you are a school teacher, administrator, or principal, you can register your school on the site to have an event organized for your pupils sometime within the week. Get involved in this unique opportunity, and expose your orienteering event to people across the world.
Watch the sport
There are several sports channels on television dedicated fully to orienteering sports. Today will be the perfect time to sit back with family and friends and see what all the hassle is for yourself. You could also watch recaps of the World Orienteering Championships on T.V. or online.
5 Interesting Facts About Orienteering
It’s not in the Olympics
Since 1966 there have been efforts to make Orienteering an Olympic sport, but as of today it still has not been added to the Olympics.
There is a flag for it
The international orienteering flag is a diagonally divided flag with the colors white at the top half and orange at the bottom half.
Speed is key
Although the main elements of orienteering are navigation and tactical thinking, knowing how to sprint is a successful skill set to have.
Ski Orienteering was closest to the Olympics
Despite the previous hesitation, the International Olympic Committee put ski orienteering under consideration in 2005, but by 2006, the committee decided not to include any new sports.
Being calm is a major key
Surveys have shown that the ability to keep calm under pressure is a winning key factor in the sport.
Why We Love World Orienteering Day
It’s all about activity
Any form of physical activity is one we should all be eager to get on board with. Sporting holidays are all activity-centered, and this day raises awareness for the particular activity of orienteering.
It encourages group bonding
Orienteering can be an individual sport but is more fun when done in groups and most events organized for the day are group-based events. This gives us a great opportunity to meet and mingle with new people, as well as bond with them in a unique competitive way.
It’s a basket full of new skills
Orienteering involves learning several new skills such as map and compass reading. This single sport allows us to learn other important life skills, so what's not to love about World Orienteering Day!
World Orienteering Day dates