The history of Orienteering

Orienteering is an activity that requires participants to use navigational skills in order to find their way to a specific location or find a specific thing. It is something that has proven immensely popular, and useful, for institutions like the Boy Scouts, as well as schools across the world. Orienteering is essential because it teaches map reading, helps people to understand compasses, and is also great for physical endurance.

You might have done orienteering at some point in your life, but, even if you haven’t, this is still a fascinating and important activity. There are a lot of benefits to learning about orienteering, and it’s essential that we learn as much as we can about it. So, let’s look a little more closely at the history of orienteering, and how it has evolved into what it became.

Early days

Orienteering first came about in Sweden in the back end of the 19th Century, where it was used predominantly for military exercise. In fact, the Swedish actually called it ‘orientering,’ which meant the crossing of unknown terrain using a compass and map. It developed from a form of military training, into a sport that people enjoyed, and the first ever orienteering competition took place in Norway in 1897. Being that locations for orienteering are usually chosen for their unique beauty, Norway seems as good a place as any. By 1930, it had become firmly established as a sport in Scandinavia, and in 1959 the first international orienteering confidence was held in Sweden.

Founding the IOF

The International Orienteering Federation (IOF) was founded in May 1961 at a conference in Denmark. There were 10 founding nations, though East and West Germany are now one nation again. Membership has increased since then, and the federation has grown over the years in influence and size. It has also seen the development of orienteering outside of Europe, growing at a particularly rapid rate in Africa, and Asia. The IOF oversees all international orienteering societies and governs the sport globally. They oversee the four different orienteering disciplines; foot orienteering, mountain bike orienteering, ski orienteering, and trail orienteering.

Push for the Olympics

There has been a push for some time now to turn orienteering into an official Olympic sport. Though the IOF was recognized by the International Olympic Committee back in 1977, efforts to get it added to the Olympic program have, thus far, proven unsuccessful. Despite this, it was added as a sport in the World Games as recently as 2001. The fact that the sport is not really spectator or TV-friendly is probably one of the reasons why it has not been accepted for the Olympics, and this looks likely to remain the case.

Orienteering may be a beloved pastime and sport practiced all across the world. But, the nature of it makes it appealing only to those who are participating. You wouldn’t show up at an event to spectate because you wouldn’t see anything! Being as orienteering was invented in Scandinavia, it stands to reason that Scandinavian countries have been dominant forces in the sport. The more it grows in popularity, however, the more nations will be competing for medals.