Road to WOC #5: Interview with WOC 2021 National Controller

31. 3. 2021

Jan Fiala – Club Chairman of SK Žabovřesky Brno, member of the Competition Committee and author of Competition Rules for the Czech Foot Orienteering, competition organizer, IOF Adviser, now also a member of the IOF FootO Commission and, last but not least, National Controller for the WOC 2021. What does this position entail and what yet has to be done before the WOC? That’s what we discussed when we’ve met in the virtual world.

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Jan, let’s start from the beginning… I learned that the position of National Controller can only be assumed by IOF FootO Event Adviser. How can one become an IOF Adviser?

In order to become an IOF Adviser, several conditions need to be met. First of all, the support of the federation, which nominates you and at the same time applies for the status of IOF Adviser, is necessary. Furthermore, you have to complete the Event Adviser Clinic; in my case it was focused purely on FootO, i.e. walking orienteering. Although knowledge of international orienteering rules play a primary role here, the Clinic is also about learning map symbols, control descriptions and rules for special events such as the WMOC. WMOC is organizationally the most complicated championship due to the number of categories and the complex qualification key to the final races. Last but not least, you have to prove your interest and willingness to devote time to the community. There are not that many IOF Advisers yet, and they are needed in every WRE race. However, our number is expanding on the Czech scene, especially thanks to young organizers.

What was your motivation behind the idea to embark on the journey of the IOF Adviser?

For a long time, I enjoyed orienteering only as a runner. I was a pure consumer and wasn’t returning anything back to the community. For that reason, I started searching for an area where I could make use of the skills I’m strong in, and these are rules and regulations. I started working in the Competition Committee, first at the regional, then at the federal level, followed by referee licenses (R2, R1), work for the Appeals Committee, preparing new competition rules, and from there it was just a small step towards the IOF Adviser.

How is such a license maintained?

The license needs to be renewed every three years. This takes the form of re-accreditation, and your federation must confirm its interest in keeping you in this position. No additional training or testing is required. Another condition is to be an active orienteer, i.e. at the moment you stop participating in the competitions, you will automatically lose your license.

Can you tell us how the position of the IOF Adviser differs from the National Controller? Have you already acted as a National Controller at some competitions?

 

IOF competitions are divided into two categories. The first (major events) includes all World Championships, the World Cup and European Championships, including master and youth. For these competitions, the Adviser is appointed by the IOF and the national federation elects a National Controller. This should be a person with the same education as an Adviser, but who can’t be a direct member of the organizing team due to the fact that this role should act as the first level of opposition to the organizer. The second category (non-major events) includes WRE races, where only the IOF Adviser is needed. In this case, the Adviser is appointed directly by the national federation.

Thus, you can only be the National Controller at major events. I personally worked in this position at the European University Championships in Olomouc in 2019.

What does the position of national controller entail?

It is necessary to say that I am not working alone but in a pair with Roman Zbranek. Currently, we are most often in contact with Daniel Wolf as the sports director, before whom we oppose the concept of arenas and tracks, but we also help with bulletins, check the suitability of controls and subsequently their placement. After our job is done, only then does everything go to the Advisers for the final approval.

Does anything specifically about this position bring you joy?

I have a philosophy that every human being is inherently selfish and does everything primarily for its own well-being. If someone else benefits from such an activity, it’s a bonus. Personally, my main concern is to learn something new in this position. Secondly, it’s about social satisfaction from good cooperation. I think we have a very well-functioning team of organizers, led by Jan Picek and Daniel Wolf, and it’s a pleasure to work with them.

When I see a list of your activities, is there anything you ever wouldn’t do?

Definitely marketing, competition promotion and bookkeeping for it. Fortunately, none of these relate to the position of national controller.

What else awaits you before the WOC itself?

Currently, the most important thing was reopening training possibilities. We are also working on Bulletin 3, which must be issued 3 months before the WOC, and in April a team of IOF Advisers should arrive and make a final check before competitions. Once entries will be closed, it will be necessary to draw competitors into groups, to prepare meetings for team officials, which this time will be fully online. Therefore, it is necessary to run heavy-load tests of our technical capabilities. Due to the fact that the Euromeeting has been canceled, other test races should be prepared in order to properly test SportIdent and a backup time-keeping system. Selection races could be an ideal opportunity here. This will be followed by Bulletin 4, which must be published in the week before the WOC. Then we’ll all just keep our fingers crossed.

To what extent does Covid-19 complicate your work?

The main burden is that it is not possible to predict what the situation will be at the time of the WOC, so it is always necessary to react to the current regulations. In addition to the already mentioned online meetings for the team officials, it will probably be necessary for participants and organizers to take a PCR test every 5 days. We all hope that the situation will improve significantly. In the most extreme case, however, it would be necessary to organize the WOC without spectators, who are the pulse of the entire event and bring an unforgettable atmosphere.

Let’s think positive… Is there something you or the team of organizers can really be proud of?

Unfortunately, I have a rather gloomy outlook due to the fact that all the races where I was supposed to be a National Controller or Adviser over the last year have been canceled. Maybe I should resign 🙂

But seriously, from my position, I can see how much work has been done behind the cancelled Euromeeting, from area mapping the premises to course setting. Unfortunately, we did not have the opportunity to use any of this, and therefore we have nothing to be proud of.

However, the WOC will definitely take place, competitions on a top level and with a minimal impact on the environment can be guaranteed. Compared to the previous WOC, we will also ensure a gender balance, which means that in the same number of races women will start first and in the same number men first. And of course, we have beautiful terrains that will be a real challenge.

Do you still remember what you did at the WOC in Olomouc in 2008?

I was an avid fan. I still remember the middle distance final, where we have won silver and bronze medals. It was definitely a great inspiration and I thought I’d like to be more involved in the organization of another event. This promise was fulfilled at the European Championships in Jeseník in 2016, where I was in charge of GPS tracking. At the World Cup in 2018, I was then responsible for pre-start quarantines.

Thank you for the interview and may luck be finally on your side!