In depth: New IOF President Leho Haldna

Posted on | September 5, 2016 | Category: News, Newsletter

Leho, congratulations on becoming the new IOF President. Can you tell us about your main plans for the IOF during your presidency?

I will work on developing and spreading orienteering throughout the world. This includes increasing our focus on regional development, paying special attention to youth and, crucially, increasing the visibility of our sport. I will also work on the inclusion of orienteering into the Olympic Games.

At the General Assembly, the IOF expelled ten Member Federations, of which nine were provisional. How was this taking a step in the right direction of spreading our sport?

Well, the IOF has previously been working hard to achieve at least 75 members, which used to be the IOC’s minimum requirement for consideration for inclusion in the Olympic Games. However, we no longer believe that this “collecting of flags” is the right way to expand and, fortunately, nor do the IOC. We have found it to be a barrier to real development. The Member Federations we expelled today were expelled because they did not develop orienteering, they did not pay their membership fees and we had no replies at all when trying to communicate with them. In short, there were no signs of life in those ten federations. Terminating their memberships allows us to start over with organisations in these countries. In some cases, we already have contacts in place who are keen to develop orienteering, and we hope to help them towards applying for membership in the IOF in the near future. The target is to increase the number of IOF Member Federations back to at least 80 by 2020. However, it is important to note that these Member Federations will be stronger than those who left us this year. You will also note that the General Assembly also welcomed twelve provisional members as full members of the IOF, a real result of the efforts the IOF is putting into regional development.

But how will it be different this time around with these federations?

We have already started to change the way we work with regional development. Our newest IOF Commission, the Regional and Youth Development Commission (RYDC), is full of experienced and enthusiastic commission members dedicated to the development of orienteering. Cooperation between the IOF Council, the RYDC, Member Federations, Regional and Sub Regional Bodies and our talented and committed Regional Coordinators will be crucial moving forward. The IOF is really committed to this work.

So, apart from your work with regional development, how do you plan to spread and develop orienteering in the world?

One of our areas of high priority must be visibility, I cannot stress this enough. There are two main areas of focus here. Firstly, we need to increase our event quality, including developing the TV broadcasts from our events. Secondly, we need to pay special attention to youth. This is incredibly important. Here we have seen that World Orienteering Day is a great concept, which we can really use as a promotion tool of orienteering amongst youth.

You mentioned the inclusion of orienteering in the Olympic Games. The Olympic ambitions of orienteering have long been known, but is there really anything happening there?

Foot Orienteering and Ski Orienteering both have a realistic chance of inclusion in the Olympic Games. Inclusion in other Multi Sport Games are important steps on our Olympic path. SkiO is a part of the Military Winter World Games (2013 and 2017) and the Winter Universiade (2019), and Foot Orienteering is included in the World Games and the World Masters Games. Foot Orienteering was also evaluated by the IOC for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Even though we didn’t make it this time, being considered is a really important step. Part of the journey towards the Olympics is continuing the work we are already doing to develop orienteering, and part of it is also developing our contacts with international sports bodies.

What resources do you have to do even more?

Another area of high priority is to significantly increase external income to the IOF. At present, the IOF’s income comes mainly from internal sources, such as membership fees and sanction fees for events. By developing our products and concepts, we will be able to attract more sponsors and supporters. Increased external income will allow us to reinvest in key areas such as regional development, the visibility of orienteering and event quality.

Thank you Leho.

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