Konstantinos Koukouris, Ph.D.,

Ex-assistant professor, Aristotle’s University, P.E. Department


The article has been published in the Scientific Journal of Orienteering

Scientific Journal of Orienteering, 2005, 17, 1,



Orienteering has only recently been introduced as a sport in Greece and it is not known what motivates people decide to participate in a previously unknown and rather complex sport. The present study looks at the first ever experience of the sport of 355 participants. Participant observation and questonnaire were used as methodological tools. Male participants constituted 61,7% of the sample (N=219) whith female participants  38,3% (N=136). The vast majority (83,5%)  were between 19 and 44 years old.

Analysis of the participants’ responses showed that the main reasons for taking part in O-events are curiosity / desire for a new experience, love of forests and nature in general, love of sports, walking and exercising in a natural environment, social reasons, to learn a new multi-dimensional sport, to acquire compass and map-reading skills, the sense of adventure or nature exploration, and recreation. The main sources of satisfaction for the participants include the natural beauty of the course locations, the sense of adventure and challenge of being in an unknown area, the excitement involved in the discovery of control points, learning orientation using map and compass, running and walking in difficult forested areas, cooperation with friends and co-athletes, and finally the multi-dimensional nature of the sport. The main sources of dissatisfaction include the following: tiring ascents on rough areas, inaccurate maps and poor weather conditions. In addition in some events the feeling of exasperation due to the time limitation (score events). Problems resulting from poor management, inadequate information, and the location of some events in the burnt forest outside the city were also sources of dissatisfaction. The lack of experience of many beginners leads to difficulties in using a compass, poor understanding of the rules of orienteering and difficulty selecting an appropriate course. Others mentioned dislike of certain plants or animals they came in contact with as sources of dissatisfaction. In general the results of this study showed that participants in Greece are very satisfied with the sport and therefore further efforts to promote the sport  would appear worthwhile.

Key words : orienteering, participation, motivation



 Orienteering has only recently been introduced in Greece (1997) and as such little is  known why some people decide to participate in this unknown and rather complex sport. So far about 20 races have been organized in the whole of the country. There are few opportunities to get involved but it is an ideal sport to get people out of cities. Possibly it is not promoted enough. This is the first attempt at gathering some descriptive data about Greek orienteering participants’ reasons for taking part as well as the sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction from the initial experience of the sport.

Hogg (1995) confirmed through his research that orienteers on the whole are well educated, they are devoted to an active life style and are interested in traveling and outdoor activities. Long distance traveling in Australia is part of the orienteering culture. Regarding mountain bike orienteering, Hollenhorst et al (1995) found that mountain bikers in national parks tend to be young, very educated, rich and from an urban background. A large number of mountain bikers participate in races, organized courses and festivals.

In contrast to many other European cities where 14% on average of the ground coverage area consists of  parks and sport facilities and 39% are open spaces (Sinadinos 1993),it is well known that in the two major Greek cities, Athens and Thessaloniki, there are relatively few parks or open spaces and citizens have to travel great distances in order to reach suburban green spaces. Whereas in the European cities there  are 20square klm per resident in Athens and Thessaloniki there are two 20 square klm per resident. According to Sinadinos (1993), the lack of green spaces in Greek cities results from greedy exploitation of land for profit with cementing of land, lack of planning, lack of normative rules, non implementation of approved studies etc. Although at present relatively unknown in Greece, orienteering is one of the outdoor sports sporting activities that could transcend this stifling urban context and provide a healthy outlet for people living in urban areas.  Orienteering events allows participants to visit some beautiful areas which might otherwise remain unknown and unexplored. Below the arguments will be presented in two sections. Firstly evidence for taking part in orienteering from other studies and secondly evidence for taking part in new sports in general.

Studies have shown that people take part in events for different reasons and since they have varying abilities, orienteering courses are classified by degree of difficulty. McNeil, Ramsden and Renfrew (1987) mentioned the following reasons why young children should get involved in the sport: a) it requires that competitors analyze information continually as well as the ground formation and to connect the map with the ground, b) it improves fitness and cardiovascular capacity, c) it is both mentally and physically challenging motivating children to run further, d) self-confidence and self-reliance are developed since children are required to take full responsibility for their actions, e) young people often start the sport in groups and in this way they learn to cooperate with others, f) young people are encouraged to set targets and work hard and creatively in order to achieve them, g) young people learn to appreciate the importance of the environment and develop an environmental protection ethic. Another characteristic of the sport is that it could be adjusted according to each participant’s  needs. The participant chooses the length and difficulty of the course as well as the speed by which he would like to run or walk.   Claesson, Gawelin, Jagerstrom and Nordstrom (1981) believe elite orienteers are motivated by the desire to win, A class orienteers participate because they want to improve their performance, B class orienteers because competition motivates them more than non competitive events and beginners take part because they want to enjoy themselves, to exercise and learn more about the countryside. In another study (Hogg 1995) two thirds of Australian orienteers initially decided to get involved in the sport after being motivated by friends or family. Influence by mass media was shown to be the next most important method of getting people involved in the sport. Strangel (1996) classifies Norwegian orienteers into five categories: 1) A large number of participants regard orienteering as recreation, fun, exercise and as a good opportunity to be out enjoying nature. 2) The elderly participants regard the sport as the best exercise for their age. 3) Younger people regard orienteering as a tough non-family sport 4) A further small group of older members regard the sport as an ego trip and disregard recruitment, they ignore beginners, sponsors and spectators. The only thing that they want is to take part in their sport. 5) The last group is comprised of elite orienteers who are primarily interested in contests, mass media, financial support and sponsors.

It will come as no surprise if authorities of track and field people in Greece will hold a negative attitude towards the sport. What makes foot orienteering so dissimilar to endurance running? It is hard to answer. We assume that the multidimensional aspect of orienteering, the learning of compass and orientation skills, the adventure and exploration of nature and the recreational aspects of the new sport appear to be the main differences at a first glance. Evidence of differences between athletics and orienteering beyond the technical aspects is lacking. Little has been said about the clash between new sports and the established athletic order. This will be clarified later on. The participants could take part outside competition or try their skills in permanent courses at any time. Although the participants run against the clock, no participant knows his exact position immediately after the finish. Because orienteering in Greece is not so well established as other countries in Europe, it may be considered to be an alternative sport. And since it is an alternative sport, result lists are not displayed on site but rather sent two weeks later. Although orienteering is an individual sport most participants in Greece run in pairs or groups. The club “officials” are participants themselves. They all take part in the event except the course-setter. There is only one active club operating in the whole of the country which sends results lists. There is no official Federation. Although the club is recognized by IOF, it is not yet recognized by the Greek sporting authorities. The club has no connections with the State.

The decision to become involved with a particular sport is influenced by several factors. For instance sporting opportunities are very different. For instance sporting opportunities are very in urban and rural environment and consequently the choice of sport depends on the area in which one is brought up. The choice of the sport depends on whether someone lives in urban or rural environment (Knopp 1972, McPherson 1982). The family and the educational system are regarded as the main socializing agents during the formative years in childhood, whereas friends and acquaintances  play an important role during adolescence (Brennan and Bleakley 1997). It has been observed however that despite the existence of many sport opportunities outside the school young people are not so willing to participate in extra-curricular sport.

Many outdoor people compete in events during activity holidays. According to Eerola (1999), despite its social and financial importance, sport tourism has not attracted the interest of many scholars. In addition, misinformation by mass media regarding activity holidays as being open only to trained people, and the profile of participants as being risk-takers has frightened many potential customers from recreation companies, and created false expectations for those taking part (Kouthouris et al 1999).

Since some of the participants in Greece were mountain bikers it is appropriate here to mention some important points. The fast endorsement of mountain bike by the outdoor enthusiasts shows that mountain biking fulfills many needs including entertainment, physical exercise and contact with nature (Hollenhorst et al 1995). According to the authors nearly a third of mountain bikers (30,5%) are involved in mountain biking simply because they like exercising, 23% are involved for fitness reasons and 10,8% because they exercise in a natural environment.

In Greece, orienteering is practiced, not as a mainstream sport, but as an alternative sport. The main characteristics of an alternative sport should be clarified before we proceed any further. Beal (1999) identifies three main differences between traditional sport and alternative sport like skateboard, alternative sport having the following characteristics: 1) The participants control alternative sport whereas the authorities are absent. 2) The participants define the limits of the sport that permits them to create an activity that suits their needs. The participants decide to promote individuality, creativity and self-expression. 3) The participants are against competition and in favour of cooperation. From other alternative sports it is known that the appearance of a new sport always upsets the established athletic order (Heino 2000). As Heino (2000 p. 176) points out: “the rise of snowboard offered resistance to the dominant culture of skiing and sports as a whole; it made transparent the meaning and capital involved in skiing as well as the comodification and legitimating of sports in general. This is where the animosity began.” Important issues such as legitimatization and resistance, social class and gender are important in the athletic miliaeu just as in society as a whole. As Rinehart (1998) points out, the philosophy of alternative sport is related to the life-style and the artistic expression of oneself, not to media or competition.

The aim of this study is to analyze the reasons why people participate in orienteering events for the first time in Greece. One of the aims of the analysis  was the creation  of categories of reasons given by participants as to why they took part in orienteering, their sources of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. It is hoped that the conclusions reached may help in deciding  how to promote the sport, improve the quality of orienteering event organization and increase the participants’ enjoyment etc.


The sample

The sample consisted of 355 participants who took part in an orienteering event for the first time ever. Of these participants 61,7% (N=219) were male and 38,3% (N=136) were female. As regards the age distribution of the participants, the vast majority were between 19 and 34 years of age (60,5%), 12,7% were 35-44 years old (2,4% were older than 45 years old or older) with 5,6 % aged 12 years or younger (primary school pupils)and 10% aged 13 to 18 years (secondary school children). Most of the participants were still in the educational system (53,5%) while 39,2% had completed their education. Professional and intermediate classes were overepresented (26,5%) whereas manual social classes were underrepresented (5%).

The participants took part in events organized in the outskirts of Thessaloniki, Serres and Ptolemaida in Northern Greece over a period of four years (1997-2000). Overall, 13 open O-events have been organized, as well as numerous other events specially designed for schools, ex-commandos, mountain-bikers etc. The sample includes nearly all the participants in these events in Greece in other words its nearly the total population of participants. A few events (four) were conducted in Athens by another organizer and these people were not included in the sample. Therefore, due to the limited  number of participants in general in Greece at the time of the research, the sample   was   regarded as representative  for beginners in Greece and met the  selection  criteria.

Methods of work.

The categorization of data into sentence – forms (Jones 1985) and the constant comparative method (Glaser   and Strauss 1967, Cote  et al 1995) were used.  The concentration of units of meanings which accrue from “properties” and, in the final analysis, “categories”  were used  in the   largest part of  the study. Without the usual statistical   analysis, reasons for taking part in a competitive sport was examined through interpretative  sociology,  morte specifically by applying  the  phenomenological  approach (Whitson 1976). For the collection of data, the ethnographic method was used. Ethnographic work is generally based upon the active participation of the researcher in the production of knowledge, demands the full-time involvement of the researcher over a lengthy period of time, and consists of ongoing interaction with the people he/she studies (Pedersen 1998, Mitchell 1968, A new dictionary of Sociology). Highly personalized accounts that draw upon the experiences of the author/researcher for the purposes of extending sociological understanding were also used (Sparkes 2000).

Selection  of data

A questionnaire was distributed to all participants at the end of each O-event. The questionnaire consisted of 32 questions (7 of which referred to the reasons for participation). Most questions were in multiple choice form but there were also open ended questions allowing the participants to make their own comments. In this paper only the open ended questions (three) were analyzed. There was an initial  introduction explaining the  aim  of the   research. There were further questions (not examined here) focusing on the   social   and  sport   background of the subject. The participants were allowed ample time to clarify  their   thoughts. Because there was an opportunity for multiple answers the frequency of responses was quantified for each question. The response rate was 100%, with no-one refusing to complete the questionnaire. A few small children were helped by their parents to answer the questionnaire.


Reasons for taking part

Many people who tried orienteering also practise other sports or physical activities as their first sport like jogging (11,4%), hiking (9,1%), swimming (7,8%), weight training (7,8%), cycling (7,5%) etc. Participants were asked what prompted him/her to take part in the event. Participants took part in events for the following reasons which are described in order of decreasing importance by frequency.

1) Curiosity/New experience (n=111). The two concepts are sometimes mentioned separately by respondents but together by others. Participants decide to participate  in order to have a new experience. They were often influenced by the positive impression given by significant others as well as the advertisement of the event beforehand. A few participants were curious about the way the event was organized. One participant mentioned that he was influenced by foreign television programmes to try orienteering. The following extracts from the open -ended questions are characteristic:

“I have never participated in an event before and I wanted to try this experience”. “Thirst for something new and unknown”. “Information received from a friend and the good experiences and memories that he had from this sport. I wanted to have these experiences too”. “I have always wanted to take part in these games because I had seen orienteering events abroad on television”. “Curiosity was the reason I travelled to the venue.

2) Love of forests and nature in general (n=89). Some participants decided to take part in order to get acquainted with the mountain or to see the mountain from another perspective,  being already mountaineers. Many participants had already had experience of mountains through hiking clubs, cycling clubs, campsites for children etc. The participants gave the following comments:

“I have been involved for more than 10 years with children’s campsites for and I love every activity connected with nature”. “It’s another contact with mountains and I have been learning about mountains through my hiking club”. “I was persuaded by a friend to come but the basic reason was my love of nature, mountains and mountain biking”.

3) Learning a new multidimensional sport map reading, compass and orientation skills (62). Some participants decided to take part in order to exercise in a different way and coordinate mental and physical exercise. These participants believe that orienteering is a multidimensional sport where participants set achievement targets for themselves and mix fun, recreation and sport. They believe that orienteering is significantly different from cross country running, and demands good mapreading skills within an adventure context. The sport has already attained good fame  in Northern Greece and continually attracts new participants. The above mentioned points are illustrated below: “I was curious to get to know this sport about which most people talk with enthusiasm”. “It is a new sport that brings people, regardless of their age, close to nature. It encompasses fun, recreation and sport all in one”. “The reason was the differentiation of orienteering from normal cross country running”.

Some participants were motivated by their desire to learn to use the map and compass and finally to get to know the area, testing simultaneously their fitness. The similarity with hiking attracts some hikers although the sport demands more skills than hiking or cross country running. Some excerpts illustrate these points: The above mentioned points are illustrated below: “I wanted to learn map reading and use a compass and get to know the forest around the city”. “I have been involved in mountain hiking for the last 20 years. I am interested in orienteering because it demands additional effort and skills”. “It was a chance to get to know our endurance and how well we could orientate”. “ I saw it as a game. It was an opportunity to get to know the beautiful paths of mountain Hortiatis and learn to orientate using a compass”.

4) Love of sports, walking and exercising in natural environments (58). Another reason for participating was in order to exercise in a beautiful natural environment, to improve their fitness, to release energy and to seek activity outside the big cities. In this study, women regard orienteering as relatively safe sport due to the large number of runners in the forest. However, it should be mentioned that there were some incidents where female participants were confronted by male exhibitionists in the past in Greece. Some extracts are as follows:

“The combination of exercise and contest in a very beautiful environment”. “I was always interested in cross country running”. “I love sport and nature. I am an athlete despite being old. I will continue exercising till the end of my life” a veteran athlete said. “The need to exercise with security in a natural environment” said a female participant.

5) Social reasons, being informed by a relative/friend, being motivated by a coach (42). This major category mixes several reasons: a) one person motivates someone else, b) motivation to do something together as a family and c) meeting others. Orienteering is one of the few sporting activities where the whole family can take part. Some participants decided to take part after they were motivated by friends, partners, neighbours etc. They regarded orienteering as a good opportunity for fun and solidarity with friends. “Having the opportunity  to see their parents playing a sport is a very positive factor which influences children’s final involvement in sport”. (Brendan and Bleakley 1997 : 81). Orienteering can also be the place where friendships as well as characters are tested.  A few mountain bike athletes were motivated by their coaches. The above mentioned points are illustrated below:

“The insistence of my friend who is hooked on extreme sport”. “I came to accompany a good friend of mine who wanted to come because he liked the sport”.   “All the family walked together, having the same target within a beautiful environment”. In the first mountain bike orienteering race ever in Greece, a coach motivated many bikers to participate. “The coach told me about it and I liked the sound of it, so I decided to take part in the race”. “Solidarity with friends was the most significant reason and I ended up gaining a true impression of their character”.

6) Recreation and an escape from everyday life (26). Some participants decided to take part for recreational reasons and because they regard orienteering as an alternative form of hiking. For these participants, it’s a game rather than a sport, where they refresh themselves mentally. They are not interested in competition. These points are illustrated below: “Orienteering is a form of recreation and I like it very much”. “You recharge your batteries and become strong. And you have something beautiful to remember”. For others it was a release from stress. Physical exercise as catharsis characterizes those physical activities which provide a release from accumulated everyday   frustrations (Kenyon 1968). “It was a chance to escape from the city and learn more about nature”. “ It was a challenge in order to feel the consequences of smoking.”

7) Adventure and exploration of nature (24). Some participants decided to take part for the  adventure and to explore nature. For example: “There was an internal motivation for something different, original and adventurous.” “I like nature and I wanted to explore the mountain.” Perhaps this adventure element presupposes some risk taking. Adventure and exploration of nature were regarded as a relatively serious reason for taking part.

8) For competitive reasons (6). It is well known that competition increases the motivation of people who regard themselves as competitive (Coakley 1986). Apart from competition against other people Petrie (1971) mentions another attitude towards physical exercise, that of  competition against the natural environment. “I wanted to get to know the whole procedure and how good I am at trekking”.

9) Miscellaneous reasons (17) Some students of the P.E. Department participated as part of their studies without having any internal motive, or simply because they were interested in improving their marks in the course examinations. Some participants decided to take part because they felt bored generally, motivation by significant others (they knew the organizer of the race personally), for professional reasons (they own recreation companies) or they were journalists and wanted to write an article in the newspaper) etc. Some examples include: “I had nothing more interesting to do.” “I wanted to prove to myself that I am not a lazy person.” “I am interested in developing the sport professionally.”  “I came to this area completely by chance and because I had heard about it  I took part.”

Sources of satisfaction with the sport

Participants were asked what made them feel satisfied with their participation in the event Most spare time activities are multi-dimensional, in that many personal needs are satisfied by each recreation activity (Tokarski 1985). The following text is about the affective component of attitudes (is it bad or good? Is it harmful or beneficial?) rather than the cognitive dimension of attitudes (is it wrong or true? Is it likely or unlikely?) (Osgood 1963, Fishbein 1967). There is usually an interrelationship between various sources of satisfaction and it is very difficult to differentiate between them.   However, for analytical reasons these sources of satisfaction will be classified.

1) Courses in beautiful natural surroundings (n=141).   Most participants from an urban origin are attracted to orienteering by the beauty of nature, as racing areas tend to be selected due to their natural beauty. Simple things like the fruits in the fields, the birds and animals in the forest, the discovery of springs etc, which are far removed from everyday life in the cities, attract new participants. Sources of satisfaction mentioned include: “The natural environment and the beauty which I saw while searching for the control points.” “I enjoyed the beauty of the forest.” “ The fruits that we picked.” “ The rabbit and the partridge that I saw.”

2) Orienteering as a multidimensional sport, space conception and learning orienteering skills (66). Familiarization with the use of the map constitutes a basic component of the sport (McNeil et al 1987). As hiker Westacott (1991 p.108) points out “orienteering has a considerable influence on the development of map-reading skills, and many of its concepts such as ‘aiming off’ and ‘attack points’ are now in everyday use by walkers”.  Some participants felt satisfaction from learning to orientate using map and compass and finally getting to know the area. For example: “The discovery of the forest (as much as we could see) and the effort you made to find the target” (orienteering improvement) was a source of satisfaction for one participant.

Some participants liked the fact that orienteering is a multidimensional sport and combines mental and physical exercise within a natural environment, has a lot of variety, demands self-concentration and observation, produces a thrill or a feeling of excitement, and has a great range of applications etc. For example: “I liked its philosophy, nature, timing, self-concentration and observation.” “The relationship between hiking, orienteering and sport.” “The burning of body calories and brain substances.” “The well designed map which was very analytical.” “The capacity of the sport for wide applications.” “You were motivated to find the control points whereas simultenously you exercise and breathe fresh air.”

3) Exploration, adventure and challenge in an unknown area (40).  The planning of orienteering courses obliges the participant to wander in natural environments where he would only rarely decide to go on his own. According to respondents in all races there is a continuous investigation that keeps the interest of participants at a very high level. As is well known, there are various obstacles during the course which enhance the excitement and the difficulty, as is illustrated by the following comments: “The steep descents and the river crossing.” “I saw some areas in the forest that I would not have seen otherwise.” “The continuous investigation kept the interest unimpaired until the last minute. It was a race which, the further you went, the more enthusiastic you became.” “It was adventurous”, and you were under stress until you found the control points. Afterwards, you felt relieved and carried on.”  “I liked the sense of play and exploration in the familiar environment of my home city.” “ We found a spring.”

4) Competitive stress regarding the discovery of control points (36). Many participants felt anxious about finding control points but felt satisfied when they found them. According to Hastie (1995) the participants in orienteering are more satisfied when they complete the course rather than when they compete. This point is  illustrated below: “ The agony of searching for the control points, as well as the natural beauty spots.” “ The continuous stress about whether you will be able to reach the finish line having discovered all the control points.” “You were under stress until you found the control points. Afterwards, you felt relieved and carried on.”   An experienced mountain-biker  liked “ the stress of finding the control points as well the two very beautiful descents which were  technically for the very advanced.” A small girl who took part in a string course said she liked ”the forest and searching for the tapes.”

5) Action-exercise in difficult areas (32). Some participants particularly enjoyed running in the forest off the paths. The choice of race appropriate for the individual enhances satisfaction. For example: “ The combination of physical endurance and path finding.” “ The opportunity we had for climbing and canyoning.” “The selection of a difficult course by the organizers which helped improve my fitness.”

6) Social reasons, cooperation with friends and co-athletes (29). Although orienteering is an individual sport, in Greece, because of participants’ lack of experience, groups of athletes are allowed to compete together and cooperate. For many parents, an important characteristic of orienteering is that it allows whole families to take part together. During weekends, evening entertainment is organized for participants, which creates a friendly atmosphere. Being with friends or with the family could both be a reason for taking part as well as a source of satisfaction. The following were mentioned as sources of satisfaction. “Being with my friends before and after the race.” “I wanted to be with my family.” “ The joint effort and the positive attitude of organizers and participants”. “The night entertainment and the race.”

7) The poor weather conditions (9).  In contrast to many participants who were dissatisfied because of poor weather conditions (see later), there were a few participants who liked the stress created by poor weather conditions. For example: “I liked the weather conditions which created a lot of stress.”

8) The good management of the event (8). A few participants were impressed by the efforts of the organizers. For example: “the organizers were friendly and cheerful.” “The effort to spread the sport.” “The sensitivity of the organizers who invited me” said a blind man.

9) Development of self-confidence, confrontation of challenges (7). Several participants felt proud because they managed to confront the challenges of the game and achieve the targets. The demands (very difficult course) can have positive outcomes (being proud). Some extracts appear here: “The sense that I could test my abilities without being able to find all the control points within the one hour time limit.”  “I liked the challenge because there was a lot of fog and mud, it was a very difficult situation but now I am proud of myself.” “I liked the fact that it is all up to your own initiative.” “I managed to finish the race by checking all the control points.”

10) The friendly and fair competition (5). Competition might reduce the motivation of potential participants who would describe themselves as non competitive to take part in sport (Coakley 1986 pp 205-228). On the contrary non competitive people are more likely be motivated by non competitive sports (although orienteering could also been done in a non competitive manner) or by sports where competition is hidden and comes second to comradeship is first. The results of the O-events organized so far were not announced immediately but sent by post two weeks later. That means that participants do not learn who is the winner on the day of the event and so they cannot celebrate in front of others but rather they get their feedback at a later date. “I liked the fact that I was alone and I wasn’t competing against anybody.” “There was no obvious competition.”

11) Miscellaneous sources of satisfaction (15): Some participants liked the fact that they had the opportunity to see the burnt forest.  Others mentioned they needed to set themselves a target, to get rid of stress, to teach their children etc. For example: “I liked the whole idea because you had a target”. “Beside the fact that I felt great, the courses were beautiful and it was an opportunity to get out of the daily routine.”  “Teaching orienteering to my children.”

Sources of dissatisfaction with the sport

Participants were asked what prompted him/her to feel dissatisfied with the event. Nearly half of the participants (45% N=161), mentioned no sources of dissatisfaction. But others mentioned the following sources of dissatisfaction:

1) Tiring ascents on rough areas (30). As is well known in countries where the sport is developed, orienteering takes place in rough forested areas where there might be some relatively steep ascents. Crossing streams might be especially difficult for children. Many participants take part in events without first attending some introductory speeches. Many young mountain bikers participated in the first ever MB orienteering event without prior knowledge of the sport, apart from a single training session. As a result of their lack of experience and being poorly informed of the rules, they were apprehended by difficult ascents.  For example:

“I didn’t like the fact that I had to ascend a steep hill.”  “Crossing the stream was too difficult for children.” “I didn’t like the ascents and the fact that we were running here and there”, said a twelve-year-old mountain biker.

2) Inaccurate maps (24). Many participants mentioned that the maps used were inaccurate. Indeed one of the main obstacle for the development of the sport in Greece is the lack of maps. The only maps available (after application at the Military Geographical Service in Athens) were military ones dating back to 1970. This presents mountaineers, as well as other interested people, with the task of finding their way around a mountainous country without the help of accurate maps. This presents any organizer of orienteering events with the task of drawing his/her own sketchy maps, which might lead to some inaccuracies. The participants’ comments were as follows:

“I didn’t like the poorly drawn map. More details like houses, paths and fences are needed.”

“Maps could have been better.”

3) Poor weather conditions (including very cold or hot weather, or rain) (25). The majority of those who complained about the weather had taken part in a single event under very bad weather conditions (fog, muddy dirt roads) on a mountain. Most of the events were held under ideal weather conditions.

“I didn’t like the muddy dirt tracks”. “Unfortunately there was fog and rain. However, we should not forget that when we are talking about orienteering, these conditions are absolutely normal.”

4) Responsibility of the participant itself. Lack of experience with the compass / orienteering and too easy or too difficult control points (25). Orienteering skills are best taught at an early age and then developed with experience. Otherwise it is difficult for older children or adults to master the compass skills. Also due to the selection of inappropriate courses in certain cases, some control points appeared too easy and others too difficult. As an 11-year-old mountain biker said: “It was very difficult to use the compass. We got confused and sometimes we fell.” “We were cycling in all different directions.”

5) Limited time for running resulting in disappointment (18). Some participants in score events expressed dissatisfaction because of  the time limit.

“Time puts you under pressure and doesn’t allow you to enjoy the beauty and the serenity of the mountain.” “I expected the game to last longer.”

6) Poor management problems/ inadequate information (18). As mentioned earlier, many participants take part in events without first attending some introductory talks which are organized prior to the event. Instead they expect to be instructed just before the start of the event when the organizers are very busy. Variations between courses are defined not by colour-coded standards but by the particularities of the terrain. Also there are no predefined time starts but participants are able to start at any time usually within a four hour period. As the participants mentioned:

“The members of the organizing committee should coordinate the race better. They should give information about the use of compass and maps, they should tell us where exactly the first control point is.” “There should be an intermediate race between the one for beginners and the one for advanced runners that wouldn’t give my nine-year-old son a rough time. My son was very enthusiastic with the beginners race but he wanted something more. The intermediate race was beyond his capacity.” “There should be a large interval between the starting times  so that those who follow do not cheat. Otherwise, fair play in the competitive part of the race is spoilt.”

7) Organizing some races in the burnt forest and ugly scenery (17). Some participants disliked the fact that the event had been organized in a burnt area of the forest. For example: “I felt dissatisfied because of the burnt forest, the ruined and abandoned cars; some had criminal aims against the forest.” So, the reason for their dissatisfaction was not the race per se but the organizing of the race in the burnt forest.

Despite the course planners’ efforts to choose the most scenic areas, forests in the outskirts of the city present a realistic rather than an ideal choice. An experienced mountain biker didn’t like “the fact that there was no variety in the morphology of the terrain and the scenery.”

8) Fear of injury and lack of contact with the organizing committee and remote start (10). This fear is justified because the race covers a large area. This risk is inherent in orienteering and participants are aware of it abroad. Besides, the start is indeed sometimes remote from the finish line, inhabited areas, or the bus stop, this being determined occasionally because this is required by the needs of the course. Whereas abroad this seems to be the norm (for example it is not unusual for the start to be 3 klm away from the finish line), it is disturbing for some participants in Greece.

9) Aspects of the natural environment (9). Within the depressive urban conditions children become alienated from nature. As a result of this a few children are upset by nettles, thorns, lizards, caterpillars and insects. Nearly all of those who mentioned problems with the flora and fauna were children. They mentioned: “I didn’t like the insects and the reptiles on the grass.”  “I didn’t like the remote and dangerous places with high grass.” Needless to say there were no particularly dangerous places or snakes in the orienteering area.

10) Litter along the course (5). In the forests surrounding the city, the litter including cans, plastic plates, debris, mattresses and even burnt and abandoned cars is obvious. Many participants were dissatisfied with the presence of litter. “I didn’t like the litter” in the running areas. However, one participant saw the problem in a different way: “It is a good thing that there is litter so that we can become conscious of their filthiness.”

11) Miscellaneous sources of dissatisfaction (21). Other reasons for dissatisfaction included problems with co-athletes, the disturbance by the participation of ex-commandos in the races, disturbance by the simultaneous cycling race in one particular event, poor quality compasses, too friendly competition, helping other teams, not finding the control flags because of their removal by third persons etc. It is usual for beginners in Greece to run in pairs. Only one of them carries the map and compass. If the partners separate for some reason during the course the one left without compass and map is in trouble. A major problem for the organizers is the removal (possibly theft) of control flags which creates unnecessary stress and frustration for the participants. Some of these problems are illustrated below: “ There was a simultaneous cycling race and we had to pass through the lines of the cyclists.” “I lost my team-mate who had the compass and map during the race. I got lost in the forest.” “The compass was of poor quality, it was dangerous when I was climbing the rocks but it was my responsibility.” “Someone took the control flags.” “The visitors and the participants were very noisy.”

Discussion of results and conclusion

The results of this study do not agree with the arguments presented by Vanrusel (1995) and Humberstone (1999). However, the values and actions of those who are involved in outdoor activities have changed. Instead of love of nature (traditionally regarded as a feminine quality) those who are involved in outdoor activities usually have aggressive, destructive and male chauvinistic characteristics in a Rambo-like fashion (Vanrusel 1995, Humberstone 1999). Instead of being concerned exclusively with their own personal interests, participants in outdoor activities should realize that these activities might harm the interests of society as a whole (Vanrusel 1995). The environment must remain intact for future generations. Some people with modern un-conventional values oppose the macho competitive ideology (the mountain conquering syndrome) (Humberstone 1999). These characteristics are far from the reasons listed in the results of this study. First of all those involved in this sport are more nature friendly than those who are involved in consumptive e.g. hunting or motorized outdoor activities snowmobiles, jet ski, motorcycling etc (Jackson 1986). Secondly, newly-established sports cannot exhibit these characteristics.  According to Hammit and Brown (1984) whereas in the urban environment we pay superficial attention to other people, in the wilderness we pay deep attention to familiar persons. Solitude in the wilderness liberates the mind from the daily routine and offers serenity.

The main reasons for taking part in O-events are curiosity / new experience, love for nature, forests or mountains, learning a new multi-dimensional sport and compass and map-learning skills, love for sports, walking and exercising in natural environments, social reasons, being informed by a relative / friend, being motivated by a coach, adventure and nature exploration, and recreation.

The curiosity/ new experience dimension was the most important reason for taking part in the sport. As Donnelly and Young (1999) pointed out nothing can prepare an aspiring rock-climber for the first climb because it is something that he should try himself first. Similarly no written or oral account of orienteering can be compared to first hand experience. If the experience is positive, the participant will be eager to try again. Love for forests and nature in general is the second major reason for taking part in the sport. It is well – known that some of the reasons for young people’s involvement in outdoor activities is their desire for experiences in the natural environment and their willingness to protect it and show commitment to green idealism, which is wide spread among young people (Putnam 1989). In contrast to those people who are involved in consuming (fishing, hunting) or mechanized outdoor activities (sea and snow scooters), those who participate in sports which appreciate nature (hiking, kayaking, orienteering) have stronger attitudes towards the environment (Jackson 1986). The results of this study are consistent with young people’s trend to protect the environment by taking part in outdoor activities. The third factor love of sports and walking in natural environments could be combined with the previous factor. The social reasons factor, (including being informed by a relative/ friend, being motivated by a coach) is a serious factor frequently mentioned in research about attitudes towards physical education and sports. The attitude of participants towards physical activity as a social dimension was documented three decades ago (Alderman 1970, Petrie 1971, Dotson and Stanley 1972, Apgar, 1976). Schutz, Smoll, Carre and Mosher (1985) divided this into two dimensions a) social continuation and b) social growth. The learning a new multidimensional sport reason and learning map reading reason were combined. These are frequently mentioned in popular literature of the sport. The adventure element follows. Perhaps the adventure element presupposes some risk taking. As Albert (1999 : 169) concluded “far from being merely an inconvenient -even peripheral-element in sport, danger and risk taking might be better understood as constitutive of participation in the first place”. Although orienteering is much less dangerous than other outdoor activities, there is some risk of injury. According to research the risk of injury during participation in orienteering is comparable to other sports. Among 15000 participants in the international O-Ringen games of 1977, 658 were injured. Ekstrand, Roos and Tropp (1990) estimated that there are 8,4 accidents for every 10,000 hours of running in orienteering. These results are comparable with most other sports. Another quite important reason for taking part is recreation. For some beginners orienteering is a recreational  sport which could make them feel happier or stronger. The increase in free time as a result of the industrialization multiplied the need for sport and games (Stamiris 1991). Unfortunately, free time is often filled with activities which don’t necessarily make people happy or strong. As Cziksentmihalyi and Lefevre (1989) pointed out, if people could realize how negative their feelings are when their experiences are not challenging or strong enough, they would improve their life quality with a more consienscious and active use of their leisure.

Participants are satisfied because they enjoy the beautiful courses in nature, they face an adventure and challenge themselves in unknown areas, they enjoy the stress regarding the discovery of control points, they learn a multi-dimensional and use map and compass, they enjoy running and walking in difficult forested areas, they are happy because they cooperate with friends and co-athletes and. They feel dissatisfied when the have to face tiring ascents on rough areas, inaccurate maps and poor weather conditions. The limited time for running resulting in a state of exasperation was a source of dissatisfaction when score events were organized on the past. Some poor management problems, inadequate information, and the organizing of some races in the burnt forest next to the city were also sources of dissatisfaction. Many beginners have to face problems with the compass and the sport rules because of their inexperience. Also they can’t choose a course appropriate for them. Some are alienated from the natural environment and hey are upset by some plants and animals. Last, fear of injury because of lack of contact with the organizing committee is a possible threat. In general it would appear that participants in Greece are very satisfied with the sport. Efforts should be made in order to promote the sport further.

The results of this study are culture bound. Considering the huge gap that exists between the initial stage of development of the sport in Greece and the advanced development of the sport in most European countries it was expected the results of this study to be culture bound. Different mechanisms operate both within and between cultures that negate the global application of any model (Fishwick and Greendorfer 1987). Combinations of methods (open and closed-ended questions as well as participant observation have been used in this study. However, due to space limitations not all results are mentioned here. Time and monetary limitations did not preclude the single investigator from employing many triangulatory devices. This is a research program not an isolated research project.  Field work preceded the survey by providing information about the receptivity frames of reference and span of attention of respondents (Smith 1975). This helped the triangulation of methodology. The initial results were sent to the homes of some regular participants who were given the opportunity to make comments and contribute in this way to the quality of the study (Walker 1985). The results of the study are peculiar to this sport and thus are not applicable for other new outdoor sports in Greece.

Suggestions for the development of the sport in Greece

The aim of the suggestions is to increase public awareness of orienteering, improve quality of orienteering in this country and attract more participants in the sport. Several suggestions could be made for the development of the sport in Greece:

1) Afthinos (1998 p.168) suggests the organizing of daily trips to the forests in the outskirts of a city in connection with learning the basic techniques of the sport. He also suggests the incorporation of orienteering in the city projects for recreation in nature. By organizing more events in the outskirts of a city the sport could become more accessible and well known to people (Strangel 1996). The participants in the events mentioned that the days of the event should coincide with public holidays when many people go out to the countryside, so that a lot of people see the event and get to know the sport. This suggestion is connected with reasons (No 4, 5, 6) for taking part in events. It is also connected with certain sources of satisfaction (No. 1, 6). Orienteering of course could be organized in urban areas in the form of score orienteering. Some University campuses in Greece have detailed architectural maps. Other outdoor events, games or parties could be organized as well.  As many forms of orienteering as possible should be organized in forests surrounding the cities. The events should be modified according to local terrain and when one form proves to be popular it should be continued (Palmer 1994). Permanent orienteering courses should be established in forests surrounding the cities. Score orienteering events were eventually dismissed because they weren’t proved to be popular with participants (see No 5 in sources of dissatisfaction).

There should be better coordination and recruitment methods in schools (Strangel 1996, Hogg 1995). Teachers and parents should be involved in the development efforts. Orienteering skills should be taught along with writing and reading skills in ordinary schools from the age of 9 or 10 years old (not just outdoors but also in the classroom). As these children grow, they regard orienteering skills as natural as writing and reading. The desire for map reading and use of compass (No 3) and the desire for learning a new multi-dimensional sport as reasons for taking part is interrelated with this suggestion. The sport should be an integrated part of children’s camps and Physical Education University Departments in the country. Orienteering is taught only in one of the five Physical Education Departments in the country and in a handful of children’s camps. The compulsory participation in orienteering because of studies has not lead to any real progress of the sport. The sport should be developed through the education for the recreation of adults and the elderly    (Hogg 1995).

3) In cooperation with hotel managements the sport should be spread in tourist areas where there is an influx of foreign visitors.

4) The sport should become customer and mass media oriented. There should be excitement among the audience (Strangel 1996). Schools, clubs etc. could organize trips to the competition venue.

5) The maintenance of social contacts with other members of the club and the development of social contacts in general through training sessions constitute an essential element for the recruitment of new athletes to the sport (Hogg 1995).  The social reasons (No 5) were indeed a relatively important reason for taking part in the sport.

6) The development of orienteering in Greece could be facilitated through the creation of active O-clubs. There were only two orienteering clubs in Greece but recently one of them has stopped any activities. The creation of ghost clubs with no real orienteering activity and misinformed members only serve private and commercial interests.

7) Because those who do take part in orienteering events in Greece come from various  backgrounds and abilities (hikers, ex-commandos, school children etc) there should be plenty of choice in terms of the degree of difficulty for the participants (Palmer 1994) (see No 4 in sources of dissatisfaction).

8) Local advertising and promotion of the sport could serve the sport better than national campaigns because the concept of orienteering is not well understood by the people (Palmer 1994).  In Greece the urbanization trends after the War were so extensive that few people were left in the countryside with a knowledge of local forests. Also due to fires the forested parts of the country are under severe threat (see No 7 in sources of dissatisfaction). The existence of criminal elements in forests frightens many citizens, especially women. Environmental education could be made through outdoor activities including orienteering. One should get to know nature before he develops his conscience regarding the environment (see No 7 in sources of dissatisfaction). Had they not taken part in orienteering events many of them would have never seen the rubbish in the forests or realized the extent of forest destruction. And perhaps this is one of the most important but hidden benefits.

In addition to the above I would add that colour-coded event with more options should be organized. The accuracy of maps should be improved by professional mappers. The poor management problems could be improved by better and more professional practices. At certain points during the race there should be water and medical stations.


Afthinos, G. (1998). Exercise-Sport, Moving Recreation from a management perpective (in Greek). Department of Physical Education and Exercise Science. University of Athens.

Albert, E. (1999). Dealing with danger. The normalization of risk in cycling. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 34, 2, 157-171.

Alderman, R. (1970). A sociopsychological assessment of attitude toward physical activity in champion athletes. The Research Quarterly, 41, 1.

Apgar, F. (1976). Emphasis placed on winning in athletics by male high school students. The Research Quarterly, 48, 2, 253.

Beal, B. (1999). Skateboarding: an alternative to mainsteam sports . In Coakley and Donnelly (eds) Inside Sports, (pp.139-145). Routledge, UK.

Brennan, D. and Bleakley, W. (1997). Predictors, patterns and policies for post-scholl participation. In Kremer, J. Trew, K and Ogle S. (eds) Young people’s involvement in sport (pp.78-97). Routledge, U.K.

Coakley, J. (1986). Sports in Society. Issues and controversies. TimesMirror/Masby College Publishing, St. Louis, Missouri, USA.

Cote J. and Salmela, J. (1996). The organizational tasks of high performance gymnastic coaches. The Sport Psychologist, 10, 261-277.

Czikszentmihalyi, M. and Lefevre, J. (1989). Optimal experience in work and leisure. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 5, 815-822.

Claesson, L; Gawelin K.B.; Jagerstrom E. and Nordstrom (1981). Course Planning Translation from the original Swedish Orienteering Federation Publication “Banlaggning”.

Donnelly, P. and Young, K. (1999). Rock climbers and rugby players: identity construction and confirmation. In Coakley, J. and Donnelly, P. (eds) Inside Sports, (pp.67-76) Routledge, London, U.K.

Dotson, C. and Stanley (1972). Values of physical activity perceived my male University students. The Research Quarterly, 43, 2.

Eerola, H. (1999). Sport Tourism- A field to be discovered. Paper presented at the 7th Congress of the European Association for Sport Management. Thessaloniki. Greece.

Ekstrand, J., Roos, H. and Troop, H. (1990). Scientific Journal of Orienteering, 6,1, 3-9.

Fishbein M. (1967). A consideration of beliefs and their role in attitude measurement. In Fishbein (ed.) Readings in Attitude theory and Measurement. J. Wiley and Sons Ltd, USA.

Fishwick, L. and Greendorfer, S. (1987). Socialization Revisitited: A critique of the sport related research. Quest, 39, 1, 1-8.

Glaser, B. and Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: strategies for qualitative research. Aldine de Gruyter, New York, USA.

Hammit, W. and Brown, G. (1984) Functions of privacy in wilderness Environments. Leisure Studies, 17, 2, 155-170.

Hastie, P. (1995). An ecology of a secondary school outdoor adventure camp. Journal of teaching of Physical Education, 15, 79-97.

Heino, R. (2000). New Sports. What is so punk about snowboarding? Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 24, 2, 176-191.

Hogg, D. (1995). What short of people are orienteers? The Australian Orienteer, 6-9

Hollenhorst, S. Schuett, M., Olson, D. and Chavez D. (1995) An examination of the characterisitics, preferences and attitudes of mountain bike users of the National Forests.  Journal of Park and Recreation Administration, 13, 3, 41-51.

Humberstone, B. (1998). Re-creation and connections in and with nature: Synthesizing Ecological and Feminist Discourses and Praxis? International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 33, 4, 381-392

Jackson, E. (1986) Outdoor recreation participation and attitudes to the environment. Leisure studies, 5, 1-23.

Kenyon, G. (1968). A conceptual model for characterizing physical activity. The Research Quartely, 33, 2.

Knopp, T.B. (1972). Environmental determinants of recreation behaviour. Journal of Leisure research, 129-138.

Kouthouris, X. Katsimani, P. Tzetzis, G. and Kosta, G. (1999). Quality control of the outdoor recreation services in Greek market: a single case (in Greek). Health and Sport performance, 1, 2, 151-160.

McPherson, B. (1982). The child in competitive sport: Influence of the social milieau. In Magill, Ash and Smoll (eds) Children in Sport, (pp.247-278). Human Kinetics Publishers Inc., USA

McNeil, Ramsden and Renfrew (1987). Teaching orienteering. Published by Harveys in conjuction with the British Orienteering Federation.

Mitchell, D. (1968). A new dictionary of Sociology. Routledge and Kegan Paul. London and Henley.

Mosher, J. (1994). Competitive Sport changes face during the 20th century. Speech during the 34th International Convention for young participants in the International Olympic Academy. Ancient Olympia, Greece.

Osgood, C. (1963). Cross-cultural comparability in attitude measurement via multi-lingual semantic differentials. In Fishbein (ed.) Readings in Attitude theory and Measurement. J. Wiley and Sons Ltd, USA.

Palmer, P. (1994). Orienteering Development. Compass Sport, 15, 2, 23.

Pedersen, K. (1998) Doing Feminist Ethnography in the wilderness around my hometown & Methodological Reflections. International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 33, 4, 393-402.

Petrie, B. (1971) Achievement Orientations in Adoloscent Attitudes Toward Play International Review of Sport Sociology, 6.

Patsantaras, N. (1996). Change of values and training activity in performace-enhancing sport (in Greek). In Stamiris (ed.) Sociology of Sport. Zerbinis Inc., Athens.

Putnam, R. (1989) Sport and Recreation in the countryside – Adventure activities in: “Recreation and Management”, Wembley Conference Centre. The Sports Council’s National Seminar and Exhibition. Published by the Sports Council.

McNeil, C., Ramsden and Renfrew, T. (1987). Teaching Orienteering. Published by Harveys in conjuction with the British Orienteering Federation, U.K.

Rinehart, R.(1998). Inside of the outside. Pecking orders within alternative sport at ESPN’s 1995 “the extreme games”. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 22, 4, 328-415.

Schutz, R., Smoll, F. Carre, A. Mosher, R. (1985). Inventories and norms for children’s attitudes toward physical activity. The Research Quarterly, 56, 3, 256.

Smith, H. W. (1975) Stratgies of Social Research. The methodological imagination. Open University set book. Prentice-Hall, Inc. Englewood Cliffs, N. J., USA.

Sparkes, A. (2000) Autoethnography and narratives of self: Reflections on Criteria in Action. Sociology of Sport Journal, 17, 21-43.

Stamiris (1991) Sociology of Sport (in Greek).. Zerbinis Inc., Athens.

Strangel, J. (1996). Who orienteers? A survey of profile and attitudes. Scientific Journal of  Orienteering, 12, 43-49.

Sinadinos, P. (1993) Free time, tourism and recreation: Architectural and cultural services towards 2000. (in Greek). Publication of the Commerce Chamber of Greece. Athens, Greece.

Tokarski, W. (1985). Some sociological and psychological notes on the meaning of work and leisure. Leisure studies, 4, 227-231.

Vanrusel, B. (1995). From Bambi to Rambo: Towards a socio-ecological approach to the pursuit of outdoor sports. In O. Weiss & Schutlz (eds). Sport in Space and Time. Vienna University Press.

Walker, R. (1985) Evaluating Applied Qualitative Research.  In Walker (ed.) Applied Qualitative Research. Gower Publishing Company, Aldershot, U.K.

Westacott H. (1991). The illustrated encyclopaedia of walking and backpacking. The Oxford Illustrated Press, Somerset, England.

Whitson, D., (1976). Method in Sport Sociology: The potential of a phenomenological contribution. In

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.