Successful Indoor Orienteering in Latvia

The Latvian Orienteering Federation has been seeking ways to attract more people to the sport of orienteering and has found a great solution – indoor orienteering in popular public buildings. It turned out to be a big success. Figures speak for themselves: thanks to active advertising campaign and dedication to improve the quality of competitions, within three years the number of competitors has doubled and still continues to increase.

Indoor orienteering season in Latvia begins late in autumn and ends in early spring, thereby providing an opportunity of active recreation to those who are reluctant to go orienteering outdoors in winter. While during the previous season six stages of indoor orienteering took place only in Riga, the capital city of Latvia, then for the 2017/2018 season we decided to organise indoor orienteering events also in other cities and towns of Latvia, thereby making this orienteering discipline better accessible to people. This strategy is giving returns: 25 orienteering events have been held and the number of participants is going up. Moreover, regional orienteering clubs have gained valuable experience through their involvement in the event organising, and further on will be capable of holding these events in their own community independently. We expect that in spring part of competitors from indoor orienteering will continue with their orienteering activities in the forest and expand our orienteering family.


Latvian Indoor Orienteering Championships in the future?
The first indoor orienteering competition in Latvia took place in 2009, yet this discipline started its victorious march in 2015 when the Latvian Orienteering Federation took over the organising. The very same year the Latvian Indoor Orienteering League serial was held, consisting of six stages. Average number of competitors per stage was 160 and altogether 800 starts were registered. As to this year, the number of runners per stage has gone up to 280 and the total number of starts has reached 1800. Participants even expressed a wish that we have a Latvian Championships in this sport.

Within this three year period, the stages took place in major public buildings in Riga, e.g. the National Library of Latvia, the main building of the University of Latvia, as well as the Fashion and Entertainment Centre Rīga Plaza. Some of competitions are organised also in buildings that are no longer used, e.g., an abandoned factory building and a school, thereby the event, apart from being an orienteering puzzle, turns into a real adventure.

During an indoor orienteering competition each participant has to complete two courses, taking a start at a freely chosen time. On average, the time spent per course may vary from 15 minutes to half an hour. The results of both courses are added up and the runner is ranked among his or her competitors. The participants have a possibility to watch online results on a screen in the competition centre. A stage ends with prize giving to winners. There are also overall winners of the serial, with a provision that the runner has attended at least three stages.


Easy to organise
Contrary to traditional orienteering, it takes just a couple of days to draw a map for indoor orienteering: actually anybody can do it. All what you need is floor plans of any building which serve as the basis for drawing a map on the computer. As a rule, the touring of the building is done together with the owner, in order to agree on the premises to be made available and to make other arrangements. To make the competition more interesting, you can bar off some of the passageways with tapes, while in others you can introduce one-way traffic. The rest is the same as in traditional orienteering – runners use a map and electronic punching system to visit the controls marked on their maps in the prescribed order and to punch them, and do it as fast as possible.


New rules for Indoor Orienteering

As more and more indoor orienteering events are being organised and as they are gaining popularity, the Latvian Orienteering Federation decided to draw up rules for indoor orienteering, thereby implementing a single standard for all events – they would be held in the same format, meaning that each participant has to complete two courses and the result is the total time of both.

These rules were approved by the Latvian Orienteering Federation Congress. The next step towards Latvian Championships in this discipline is uniform specification for mapping. There are no analogues elsewhere in the world, and this would make Latvia a pioneer in this sport.

Spatial thinking is critical for indoor orienteering: a runner needs to visualise the layout of the building in three dimensions in order to find the shortest way in the maze of staircases and passageways. What attracts the locals to this particular discipline is the opportunity to explore from a new aspect the buildings they are familiar with – schools, work places, a shopping mall, a library etc. This is also an opportunity to get introduced to „orienteering light”: the area is closed and the risk of losing one’s way is much smaller – people with no experience in orienteering sports more often than not are afraid of getting lost.


Try Indoor Orienteering during WOC 2018 in Latvia
During the World Orienteering Championships 2018 in Latvia, on 5 August all supporters will be given a chance to try out indoor orienteering in the premises of the National Library of Latvia, known also as Gaismas pils which translates as „Castle of Light”. It is situated within a five-minute walking distance from the city centre and from the sprint relay arena. The construction of the National Library of Latvia building was completed only 4 years ago. The building has 12 levels and is a real brain twister; apart from that, the runners can expect an awesome height difference while walking up and down the stairs. The National Library of Latvia is a unique building with outstanding architecture. It was designed by the internationally acclaimed Latvian-born architect Gunnar Birkerts.

When you move up the building, each next level is smaller in size than the previous one. Some levels can be accessed from one staircase, whereas some can be reached from quite a different one. We also promise breathtaking and unforgettable views on the promenade along the Daugava River and the panorama of Riga, because the „Castle of Light” has spacious windows and panorama platforms. The participants will be able to take a free start between 12:00 and 16:30.

Written by

Matīss Ratnieks

Do you want to know more about Indoor Orienteering, please contact Matīss Ratnieks by email: