Have you ever been in a strange city for, say, just one day, but you decide you’re going to make the most of it and see all of that city’s Things To See? So you get a map and you rush from museum to public art installation to famous park to site of historical event to tallest skyscraper to point of high elevation where you can see all those other things. By the end of the day you’ve torn your map and are exhausted and thirsty and disillusioned because the Empire State Building is basically a medium-ugly art deco office building.
Do that on skis, on the side of a mountain, and you have ski orienteering, which was rejected as an Olympic sport for this year’s Games in Sochi.
Ski orienteering is a race, conducted on cross-country skis but with the added confusion of not knowing where you’re supposed to go. Ski orienteers are given a map, which protrudes out from their chest on a small stand in the manner of a beer vendor’s tray at a baseball game, along with, usually, a compass. But the map is garbage! The point of the sport is that the competitors have to figure out their own routes to the checkpoints, and may end up mired in slush or falling off the side of a mountain. The competitors are given “clues” on the map about the quality of the various paths, and have to make up their own minds whether it’s faster to take a direct route through the forest or a roundabout route on a nice packed path.
Ski orienteers have to tag a series of “control sites,” which is ski-orienteering for “checkpoints,” in a specific order. The control sites might be a boulder, or a statue, or a clearing, or any of a dozen other natural or manmade landmarks. They used to have to punch a card to verify that they’d actually been to the site, but now they use what looks like a house-arrest anklet that automatically tags these objects.
Oh, were you interested in the history of this sport? It was designed by the Swedish military as a training exercise, obviously.
Anyway the International Orienteering Federation says they will keep applying until their weird forest-tourist sport is held at the Olympics, where literally nobody will understand what’s going on.
Photo by Puco at Wikimedia Commons