The World Cup is managed by a consortium consisting of two parts; the IOF and Verein Swiss Cup. The latter is a Swiss organization which has been organizing events and developing orienteering since 2004. The organization was founded after the successful organisation of WOC 2003 in Switzerland. After this big event, Switzerland wanted to further establish international orienteering events. After 3 PostFinance-Sprints in 2004-2006, the competition got World Cup status in 2007. Since then, Verein Swiss Cup has organized 12 World Cup rounds, first with the WOC 2003 director Sönke Bandixen in the lead, then until 2016 with Brigitte Grüniger Huber, and since 2017, Matthias Niggli is the event director.
Verein Swiss Cup is one of two partners in the World Cup consortium. The contract runs 2020-2024. The start has however not been ideal since the full World Cup 2020 had to be cancelled due to Corona and Covid-19.
Matthias, can you please summarize the goals and targets of the World Cup consortium?
As we have a lot of experience in organizing World Cup events, we decided together with the IOF to start this consortium. We think the World Cup is a strong brand but must be more firmly established, in orienteering but also in the international sports calendar. The main goals are to develop the brand and to put all World Cup rounds on the same level in both areas: competition- and marketing-wise. Mostly for the athletes, so that they know that these competitions are on a high level. But also for media, sponsors and spectators, to show that orienteering is attractive for partners, an exciting TV-sport and with interesting and outstanding athletes.
Why is Verein Swiss Cup taking the responsibility and the risk of running the World Cup?
We took this risk in previous years as well. It worked well in Switzerland to develop orienteering and the World Cup, so we were ready to take on the challenge to develop the World Cup as a whole event and also in other countries. Of course, it is also important for us and our partners to have this international event annually in Switzerland. So being part of the consortium means taking the risk, but also the chance to have competitions in Switzerland and to set up a good programme during the season.
You mention that one of the rounds is always run in Switzerland. Do you think that is fair from a sport perspective?
Yes, I think this is fair if you consider all aspects. We have very different terrains in Switzerland, so we think it will not get boring for the athletes. We try to put the athletes at the centre when organizing. So we hope that most of them like to come to Switzerland for the Swiss round every year. In other sports, there are also strong traditional organizers who are important for the development of the sport. It is important to build some World Cup traditions, and the Swiss round is part of it.
The World Cup is supposed to always consist of three rounds. Have you considered adding more competitions to the format?
We decided to start with three rounds. This may be defensive, but better three exciting rounds than 5 rounds with poor response and problems in the local organizations. However, the goal is to develop the World Cup. So if we are able to get bigger, we will do this. It is important to consider the athletes’ perspective, the national events, the big relays, and the whole orienteering season calendar. We want to develop orienteering, but we want to do it in a structured way, to be sustainable and to be attractive for the national teams to take part.
Most of the events are held in Europe. It has been so even prior to your involvement. Do you have any comments on this?
Rounds outside Europe need to be a topic for development, but we have to consider this well and it is not a decision which can be made spontaneously. Of course it is the goal to be a World Cup, but more important is to concentrate on quality and fair events. If we can guarantee this, there is no limit going outside Europe.
The full 2020 season had to be cancelled due to Corona and Covid-19. How has this influenced the possibilities to run the cup the coming years?
Of course this was not what we wished. We were ready for an exciting World Cup season 2020, and to take the decision to cancel events is never easy. But I think it will hopefully not have big impacts on future years concerning our goals and the development of the Orienteering World Cup. The good thing is that we got some time to work in the background with ideas to develop the events, the programme and the set-up in future years. But I’m waiting and will be happy to see the first runner at the starting line in a World Cup competition again.