The International Orienteering Federation (IOF) is the highest recognised governing body of the popular sport of orienteering, which includes the disciplines of foot orienteering, mountain bike orienteering, ski orienteering and trail orienteering. Competitions feature a range of age groups within a wide variety of terrains, making orienteering a truly diverse sport. Based in Karlstad, Sweden, the federation is responsible for the setting of rules and the provision of guidance for its many national federation members. IOF was founded in 1961 and achieved the status of official recognition by the International Olympic Committee in 1977.
The main goal for IOF, as with every sport, is to be included at the Olympic Games. To reach this milestone, the mission continues with continued promotion worldwide, building on the attractiveness of the sport, and raising the standards of competitiveness. As orienteering is a sport so close to nature, IOF focuses a great deal on promoting environmental good practice. Sport is key to building life-skills and raising confidence of all those participating through the mental and physical challenges the competitions present.
Orienteering has its origins in Sweden when it was first incorporated within military training by creating an exercise in crossing unknown land with only the aid of a map and compass. It quickly became a competitive event in land navigation, but at this point only between the officers from the various bases. The first civilian orienteering competition featured in in Norway when the nation was still part of the Swedish Union. In the initial stages, competitions always took place within areas chosen for the natural beauty. What really boosted popularity and raised orienteering to another level of competitiveness, was the invention of reliable and inexpensive compasses in the 1930s.
Participation grew even further worldwide after World War II. Two of the oldest races (Jukola relay and Tiomila) feature in Scandinavia and have been held since 1940. The terrain is forested areas, but events can also include fell, heathland and moorlands. Events can also feature in towns and cities. Today IOF oversees world championships in many categories often attracting thousands of entries, which adds to the increasing popularity and growth worldwide.