School events strengthen orienteering in Georgia

Posted on | November 2, 2016 | Category: News

Georgia has experienced a boom in active orienteers after an intensive focus on engaging schools in the sport. In October, a school event with 300 students resulted in the selection of 10 boys and 10 girls for the national youth team.

After lying dormant since the Soviet time, orienteering in Georgia was reborn in 2005 with the founding of the Georgian Orienteering Federation. Since 2015, the Caucasian country has focused hard on getting schools involved with orienteering:

– Our strategy to develop orienteering and attract new runners is to work very closely with schools. We have started a project named ‘Orienteering in school, follow to legend’, says Akaki Khvedelidze, president of the Georgian Orienteering Federation.

With help from strong partners, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Defence, sport in school-federation and Tbilisi city hall, the project could take off:

– In the first stage, we selected three pilot schools. We organized introducing meetings for some teachers, and taught basic skills to the students. On 1 June 2016, we organized the first school event between the three schools with 90 participants, Akaki Khvedelidze says.

The next step increased the project to involve 20 schools in the capital Tbilisi, all having several training session at each school.

No resting on their laurels

During the first weekend of October, a central park in the capital Tbilisi was the arena for the highlight of the work with orienteering in the Georgian schools. 300 students from 20 different schools participated in an event that, besides being a battle between the different schools, also functioned as selection races for the Georgian national youth team:

– The event was good fun and at the same time it was motivating to run well so our school could be placed good overall. I will definitely take part in an event like this again, a girl said after the event.

vakispark_tbilisi

Vakis Park in the central Tbilisi was the venue for the school event.

The Georgian Orienteering Federation used the competitions as selection for the national youth team and 10 runners of each gender made it to the team:

– The plan is that the 20 young runners will get the opportunity to participate in international youth and school events. Though the number of international events will be decided when we know the amount of financial support from our partners, Akaki Khvedelidze says.

The massive work with schools has increased the total number of runners and people involved in orienteering with around 400, so the number of orienteers in Georgia now is close to 600, Akaki Khvedelidze tells us. They will not rest on their laurels though:

– We will continue organizing the same event between schools next year and expand it to target students at the universities as well, Akaki Khvedelidze says.

As well as schools, Georgia also uses the military to develop orienteering and has established a military team. Each year, the team competes in the World Military Orienteering Championships, and so this year, when it takes place in Brazil from 19 November.

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