- Hong Kong is probably the earliest place in Asia to have orienteering as a sport. Being one of the last remaining British colonies in the 20th century, the British Armed Forces brought the sport from Europe to Hong Kong in the 1950s/1960s, then taught the police and the scouts how to play it, then taught other people etc.
- From Hong Kong the sport went on to other places in Asia: starting from Mainland China in the 1980s, orienteering is now played in well over a dozen countries and regions (see Destinations)
- There are 7 countries/regions in Asia (excluding the Middle East) which have hosted IOF high-level events (WRE, AsOC, WOC) at least once: China, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia
- China mostly uses its own two systems, Chinahealth and Learnjoy, the latter of which is on IOF’s provisional approval list for WRE events. Hong Kong once used the Norwegian punch system EMIT, but switched to SPORTident some time around 2014 (some clubs use the Chinese systems however). Japan still uses EMIT.
- If you’ve been to Britain for orienteering, chances are that you’d been required to bring a whistle with you in the woods. Same applies to Hong Kong, where the rules of the sport are derived from British ones (due to point 1 above).
- There is currently (as of 2019) one IOF council member from Asia (also the only non-European member), Dominic Yue who is also the chairman of the Orienteering Association of Hong Kong.
The first few days in the city of Kunming and surroundings in Yunnan province in China’s Southwest were fascinating.
There are few opportunities in the life of a university student to meet on one spot hundreds of people from places all across China and even Europe, while at the same time to enjoy the natural scenery and typical food of the hosts.
All these characters and chapters in our Kunming story have one thing in common: the challenging discipline of orienteering which combines the ability to run and the ability to navigate through an unknown territory with a map and a compass.
The annual 10-day orienteering gathering we are attending was founded in 2016 by mappers from Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangdong province.
With the aim to provide a platform for competing, training, and exchange of ideas, and with the mission to create a wave of interest for orienteering across China, its Chinese name was translated into “Big Dipper 10-Day Wave”.
Thanks to our extremely dedicated and loving organisers, we have had the privilege to run in a small village, on university campuses, in a shopping mall, in an pear orchard, a hill forest above a Taoist temple, and a lakeside golf course.
Each of the tracks came with its own challenges; the windy alleys and many corners of the village, or the impassable fences and rough terrain of the pear orchard demanded a lot of attention and precision.
Among the orienteering enthusiasts in our training there are parents and their children, as well as teachers and their students.
By sharing the passion for orienteering, we all are a colourful mosaic of individuals contributing to the diversity of our training.
For some orienteering may be just a competition, however in our 10-day training orienteering is a means to learn and be inspired by others, to reflect on our performance, and to strive for improvement.
Friendships created in our Kunming story resemble the fulfilling sensation of getting to know an orienteering map by running and analysing it.
The more we discuss together the map and the various routes each of us attempted after a competition, the clearer the contours and colours of our individual personalities and orienteering abilities become, and the more we learn from each other.
The most inspiring thing is to meet fellow orienteering enthusiasts from so many different places and backgrounds who are willing to share their experience.
I firmly believe that after the last run our passion for orienteering and our new friendships will not fade away. An unstoppable wave of orienteering enthusiasm lays ahead of us.
On January 13, 2019, the inaugural congress of Orienteering Association of Foshan and the First Indoor Orienteering Invitational Competition of “MengXiang Cup”, with nearly 200 contestants, were successfully held in Guangdong, China.
In contrast to the outdoor orienteering race, the indoor view is very limited. If you think you’ll find more directional reference indoor, you’re dead wrong. After the start of the game you’ll find that the view is blocked by heavy walls and display boards. The structures of the buildings are very similar. The whole process is like running in a maze, searching for targets in the Chamber. The judgement of distance, direction, location and space is more difficult and challenging than that in the outdoor village orienteering race. In addition, breakthrough mission was added into the open group competition, which made the contestants very enjoyable.
“This is the first large-scale indoor orienteering race in China”, said Mo Jingxiong, a former national famous orienteer. Following the successful holding of the Orienteering World Ranking Event & Asian Orienteering Cup, Foshan successfully held the first large-scale indoor orienteering race in China.
Mo Jingxiong, a former world champion in orienteering and senior adviser to the Association, said, the 2019 Orienteering World Cup final will be held in October in Xiqiao, Nanhai, Foshan, the first time the World Cup makes its way into Asia. By then, there will be nearly 300 top players from 30 countries and regions present. He believes that, by hosting city races and introducing high-level races, more people will feel the charm of orienteering and become the city’s wonderful explorer.
Now with 2019 in full speed—despite me writing 2018 by mistake a couple of times—it’s time to look forward to newer events, better results, and more fun! In the coming years we can see that the focus of orienteering shifts eastward from Europe towards Asia, with many major competitions receiving wider attention from the orienteering world.
Here are three major orienteering events in Asia that will take place in 2019, that you definitively cannot miss:
1. Asian Junior and Youth Orienteering Championships, Hokuto (Japan)
The Asian federations of IOF decided to launch the Asian Junior and Youth Orienteering Championships (AsJYOC) at the 2014 conference in Kazakhstan, with the first edition in 2015 in Hong Kong, and the second edition in 2017 in China. The age groups of M/W 20, 18 and 16 are included, to give young Asian orienteers more chances to compete on an international level. This year, the third edition will be held in Hokuto, Yamanashi Prefecture near Tokyo, in the cool late summer of Japan.
Japan is known for many high mountains that offer mountaineering opportunities, but the forests in the foothills offer another kind of experience: fun, challenging orienteering in highly runnable forests.
The championships will run from 27 August to 1 September. If you are 20 or under with citizenship of an eligible Asian nation (as defined by the IOF, as listed in the bulletin here), you should pay attention to the national team selections. If you represent other nations, you can still join and run but cannot get a prize.
Over 20? The organisers say they will hold spectator events, so stay tuned!
2. Asian Trail Orienteering Championships, Hong Kong
I decided to give the spotlight to Trail Orienteering here as, well, it’s good for training patience and orienteering technique. But the big thing is that two major Trail-O events will take place in Hong Kong: the Asian Trail-O Championships in 2019 and the World Trail-O Championships in 2020!
The Asian Trail Orienteering Championships will be held from 29 November to 2 December. So far the Orienteering Association of Hong Kong has not released any info yet but do keep watch.
If you prefer foot orienteering, the Christmas WRE-series will be back to Hong Kong on 22-26 December this year. Time to plan your sunshine trip to Asia maybe?
3. Orienteering World Cup Final, Guangzhou (China)
If you’re an active orienteer, chances are that this doesn’t need any introduction to you—the award of organising rights of the the Orienteering World Cup Final to China has been well advertised. For starters, however, the Orienteering World Cup is a series of events (which includes also the World Orienteering Championships) competed among national teams, with scores awarded according to the World Cup rules. World Cup events attract a lot of spectators who come to cheer for their teams (think a huge crowd cheering for Tove?) Last year (2018) the World Cup Final was held in Prague, Czech Republic with races in the vicinity of the famous Prague Castle.
China offers a very different kind of orienteering experience than Europe—while the vegetation might not be a friend to the forest-loving orienteering geeks, China does offer a very unique sprint orienteering experience—thanks to the tightly knit walled villages of Southern China (圍村/weicun/waichuen) that turn the heads of orienteers around!
Sprint competitions that were held late last year (Historical Road Championships in Guangdong, Asian Championships in Hong Kong) have already shown to the world the thrilling possibilities of orienteering. This year’s World Cup Final, scheduled for 26-29 October, will surely be a great hit—why not reserve a week on your calendar and see for yourself? It’s not known yet if there will be spectator races, but better still if there are!
Want more events? You can check out more on our Event Calendar!
Note: There was a mistake in the first version. The World Cup Final is in October not December. (Corrected 11 January 2019)
Asian Championships (AsOC) in Hong Kong ended with middle distance and relay. Japan took the most high-ranks in middle distance while Hong Kong and China teams went well in sprint. A few European runners were top, e.g. Vojtěch Král and Denisa Kosová from the Czech Republic. Full results (relay results not posted yet at the time of writing) available on www.oahk.org.hk.
Tomorrow (30 Dec) is the long distance which concludes the WRE-series in Guangdong and Hong Kong. However, something bigger will take place in China—the World Cup finals will come to Guangdong in October 2019, with a focus on sprint.
FINALLY!!! Despite the December cold, the orienteering gala in China will start tomorrow!!!
The first stage is in Zhaoqing, southwest of Guangzhou. You can watch the live stream here (pay attention to the time difference *GMT+8*):
Orienteers who have checked Facebook should know that the Beijing O-Week cum PWT has ended just last weekend. If you don’t know, here is how the terrain looks like (with help from Yannick Michiels’ Facebook posts with maps):
Day 1 (21 Oct) sprint
Chinese parks are usually quite detailed, with many footpaths and impassable gardens. This park has however large forests and open ground, which provide an experience with technical challenges and route choices. Although there is a big lake in the middle, the route choices are not bad (at least not 10 times across the lake like sometimes the course goes!)
Day 2 (23 Oct) Middle distance WRE
The only middle distance of the whole week, which is in a forest but with many manmade features. It looks like a park with paved footpaths.
Ah, and orienteering through a cemetery!? Excuse me!?
— Øystein K. Østerbø (@Kvaal_Osterbo) October 27, 2017
Day 3 (25 Oct) sprint
Very, very detailed!
By the way, there are many “Garden Expo Parks” all over China.
Day 4 (26 Oct) sprint WRE
Olympic Forest Park in Beijing. It looks more like middle distance terrain than sprint terrain. Doesn’t look like terrain and course suitable for sprint WRE (but good for middle distance).
It’s in a park, anyway.
Day 5 (27 Oct) sprint
This is a suburb park with something like colony gardens (or homes?) in the northeast. (I cannot find any photos of the area.) Great job with two different scales—but it’s better to have the larger scale (1:1500) coming after the smaller scale (1:3000), since it makes the race more exciting, rather than before as it happened. It looks like a great finale to the O-Week with different kinds of terrain, anyway!
In China orienteering is special but probably different than the Swedish way—orienteering is supported by the government and municipalities (communists anyway). Orienteering is part of the People Liberation Army’s training, elite orienteers can enter university through athlete admission channels (however not in Hong Kong where I grew up), but the most important is that the municipalities want to use orienteering as promotion (I have heard about events on rice fields, even if it causes inconvenience to farmers!) An important factor for sprint orienteering is to attract spectators, and although details in maps, courses and areas can be improved, the venues are well chosen to create excitement, challenge and enjoyment.
The much debated project is now done: Hong Kong has high speed rail now to the rest of China since 23 September this year. With the inauguration, MTR and CRH are offering direct services to Guangzhou (2 hours) and shuttle to Shenzhen (14 minutes). There are also a few direct trains to other cities in China, like the daily train to and from Beijing for less than 9 hours.
Border control is done at West Kowloon (both Hong Kong and Mainland China).
If you want to try the high speed night train, you can take the Beijing to Shenzhen night train and change in Shenzhen. Probably much more comfortable to take the train from Sweden to Hong Kong through Siberia!
Timetables are available at MTR’s website.
One headache I have after every orienteering event is that QuickRoute (the popular route drawing software by Mats Troeng) doesn’t have a mobile version. Which means that I have to wait until back home to draw my route. Which means I’m not gonna do it (read: procrastination).
An orienteer from China, Xian Chengbin, has written an app to help you share your route on your Android mobile phone! Now you can draw your route, complete your evaluation and share it online just minutes after finishing (or after getting back your map, whichever comes latter). For the meantime, however, it comes with only a Simplified Chinese version and only via private APK download (i.e. you won’t find it on Google Play). Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/647618042241873?view=permalink&id=684041575266186 (A handy reminder for APK downloads: you need to set your phone to allow APK installations first—see this external guide)
To guide you through the sometimes confusing sea of Chinese characters (for many Westerners, I suppose), here’s a tutorial to guide you through the app:
1. The menu
Click (+) to start a new course.
2. Basic course info
Choose date and time of event.
Date, name, place, result, class, comments. Then click on the pen.
Choose how you will import the map.
3. Draw route
Zoom to start, then click on the pen.
Start drawing your route on screen. When you reach the next control, click on the circle at the top.
You have reached your first control. Click A to add comments.
Comments and splits.
Continue above steps until you reach the finish. (There is no separate finish symbol in this app. If your course has 15 controls, your finish will be Control 16—don’t cringe!)
Done with the route!
Click on the map to enter the page below. You can share your map as an image.
NOTE: The cloud option does NOT seem to work at this moment. (Appears to be server connection problem)
Back to the menu: there’s your new course!
The author of the app is from China, so the contact links are all Weixin and QQ which you might not use. Still, there’s the Facebook Group from the download link at the top! (Link: https://www.facebook.com/groups/647618042241873 with export examples)
Now my comments…
It’s a very handy app which might prove to be a real game changer—provided that some of the following improvements are done:
- There needs to be an English version
- Add GPX-import capability from GPS watch, like what QuickRoute has
- Fix the cloud; if there is integration with map server packages like DOMA, that’s a plus
The best things about this app—
- All done on mobile, of course!
- Can add comments to each leg, exported with the map
- Easy export of images that are upload-ready to Instagram, Facebook, etc.
Give it a try—decide if this is better than your usual QuickRoute!