The International Orienteering Federation (IOF) is the highest recognised governing body of the popular sport of orienteering, which include the disciplines of foot orienteering, mountain bike orienteering, ski orienteering and trail orienteering. Based in Karlstad, Sweden, the federation is responsible for the setting of rules and the provision of guidance for its many national federation members. Currently this is over seventy representing every continent. IOF was founded in 1961 and achieved the status of official recognition by the International Olympic Committee in 1977. Another important aspect is the management of regional and international competitions and the task is made that more complex considering there are four disciplines, which means the sport features almost all year round. The competitions feature for a range of age groups within a wide variety of terrains, making orienteering a truly diverse sport. The main goal for IOF, as with every sport, is to one day 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 the competitiveness. As orienteering is a sport so close to nature, IOF focus a great deal on promoting environmental good practice. The 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 back in the 19th century when it was first incorporated within military training. In 1886 the Swedish Military Academy Karlberg created 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 1897 in Norway. This was when Norway was still part of the Swedish Union. In the early stages, competitions almost always took place within areas chosen for the natural beauty. What really boosted the popularity and raised orienteering to another level of competitiveness, was the invention of reliable and inexpensive compasses in the 1930s. By early part of the decade, participation in Sweden alone was a quarter million and the sport was now also active in Finland, Switzerland, the Soviet Union and Hungary. Participation grew even further worldwide after the World War II. Two of the oldest races (Jukola relay and Tiomila) feature in Scandinavia and have been held since 1940. Generally, the terrain is forested areas, but events can also include fell, heathland and moorlands. Events can also feature in towns and cities. Today IOF oversee world championships in many categories often attracting thousands of entries, which adds to the increasing popularity and growth worldwide.