On Wednesday 13 Sept 2023, Eden Park (EP) and Counties Manukau Orienteering Club (CMOC) delivered the first ever orienteering sprint races through our national stadium. The event was in the pipeline for a number of years. Covid, extreme flooding and the high level of commercial activity that Eden Park entertains, only afforded us certain a windows of opportunity to run this event.
The focus of the Eden Park sprint event was upon the students across the Auckland region, and the event concept was to leverage the iconic nature and reputation of Eden Park Stadium to entice inactive and active (but non-orienteering) students to try out our sport, with the intention of engaging and capturing their interest and converting to ongoing participation – part of the CMOC “for life” growth strategy.
Orienteering as we know, is a recreational activity for everyone! It doesn’t matter how fit you are – you can get outside for some physical and mental exercise as you navigate about a course at whatever speed you enjoy. We get access to some amazing and beautiful countryside too, and parts of NZ that the public don’t usually get to see.
With special permission from the EP management group, the Eden Park Sprint courses were able to lead participants through normally inaccessible areas such as the coaching boxes and the Home team changing rooms. Through this phase of the course we paused the participants’ race times so they could take their time to explore these behind-the-scenes areas, and members of the Howick Photographic Society were on hand to capture the moment. See CMOC’s photo album.
And as an incredibly rare opportunity, the course and participants were also permitted to race a lap around the perimeter of the world famous No.1 playing field!
With a control placed where the players’ tunnel exited onto the field to reactivate their race times, the students completed a timed lap of the field, and their times for this segment were extracted into a separate Champions Lap league table.
The courses and participants ultimately traversed entire stadium, from ground to the top (Level 6) of the South Stand. Keeping the students inside the facility, they weren’t going to get lost. However given the nature of the stadium there was a level of complexity in selecting the optimal route and finding the controls quickly and accurately. Although some of the participants did find their way into interesting locations…
With over 30 schools from as far afield as Bombay School and Waiuku College to the south and Orewa College to the north, there were also plenty of opportunities to develop the students’ inter- school sporting subculture and make new friends at the community-orientated event centre we’d set up with the Eden Park operations and catering teams.
Television’s Breakfast Show were also extremely interested and sent along a journalist and camera crew to run a story about the event, giving orienteering national exposure. The segment is available on the Counties Manukau Orienteering facebook pages here. We consider the event a fantastic success and are already planning for the 2024 Eden Park Sprints.
With incredibly positive feedback pouring in from students, parents, and teachers – including new ideas such as running a ‘teachers’ league’ and a ‘Park in the Dark’ race being suggested. While we’rean innovative bunch at CMOC, we also love to hear from others so if you have ideas for how we can bring orienteering to more people, please send them to CMOC.
Special thanks to the following CMOC team members who put in countless volunteer hours to bring this event to life; Anthony McGivern (event director), John Robinson (course design), Greg Bacchus (map developer), and Val Robinson (entry co-ordination). Additional CMOC team members delivering the operations on the day included Clodagh Hoare, Justine Edwards, Katherine Granich, Sophie Bacchus and Ezra Granich.
A key element of our growth strategy is our youth development (whai wahitanga) workstream. Going beyond ‘listening’, we actively recruit and involve youth in Club administration and leadership roles, including the planning, design and delivery of events, coaching, and event setup/pack-down. Being youth-led, we’re looking to improve orienteering’s appeal to other youth and also identify for development our next tranche of future leaders and champions.
Thanks to the following youth members of CMOC who volunteered as in-field coaches Ciara Hoare (also for map testing and design input), Catherine Motion, Scarlette Wardle, Dante Choi, Cameron Motion, and Finn Granich who also developed the Eden Park Sprint logo and for photography on the day.
by Anthony McGivern
See more photos from the event on the CMOC facebook here