The South African Orienteering Federation (“SAOF”) is the controlling body for Orienteering in South Africa. It was formed after the introduction of the sport of Orienteering into South Africa in 1981. Several orienteering clubs in South Africa are affiliated to the SAOF.
The SAOF is affiliated to the world governing body for Orienteering, the International Orienteering Federation. In South Africa, the SAOF is affiliated to the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC). The SAOF is also recognised by the Department of Sports and Recreation SA as a registered sport.
Orienteering in South Africa was started in Cape Town in 1981 followed by Johannesburg in 1982. Clubs were founded shortly thereafter and the SAOF was formed in 1983. The first South African Orienteering Championships was held in 1983 in Cape Town and it has been held annually ever since.
During the 1980s the sport grew steadily with attendances peaking in 1986/87 in the Johannesburg area. At one event early in 1987 over 250 people attended. However, this growth was not maintained and attendances declined during the late 1980s and 1990s.
In the late 1980s Kudus Orienteering Club (KUDUS) was started to try to bring some competition and diversity to the Highveld Orienteering scene. However, this club disbanded in the early 1990s to be replaced by Rand Athletic Club Orienteers (RACO) currently one of the three very active clubs in Gauteng.
During the “apartheid years” it was made clear to the SAOF that they would not be welcome as a member of the International Orienteering Federation (IOF). However, as South Africa moved towards the new democracy in the early 1990s, the way became open for us to join the international orienteering community. The SAOF was accepted as a member of the IOF in 1992.
This opened the door for us to compete in the World Orienteering Championships in the United States in 1993. Teams were sent to subsequent Championships in Germany (1995), Norway (1997), Scotland (1999), Finland (2001), Switzerland (2003) and Sweden (2004). The World Championships became an annual event from 2003 and it was obvious that the SAOF would not be able to send a team every year. So it was that in 2005, we were unable to send a team to Japan.
Coming last by some margin in 1993, the team has gradually improved its performances. However, no South African has yet qualified for a World Championship final i.e. been placed in the top 60 men or women in the world.
In the mid 1990s, the Defence Force actively started to orienteer. Despite having had combined Championships with the SAOF in 1997, 99 and 2000, their attendance at other events has been sporadic. There has been no participation in events by members of the SANDF over the past ten years and all attempts to re-establish contact have failed.
In 1998, the concept of Park Orienteering was introduced to Gauteng. Events had been held in parks before but this was the first time that the Park event as promoted by the Park World Tour was introduced. A series of ten events was held during the year and attendances did indeed pick up. More recently Sprint Orienteering has been introduced. This is variant of the sport is typically held in urban environments and his characterised by higher speeds and frequent decision making.
In Gauteng current event attendances average around 100 people for a Sprint event and somewhat less (60-70) for a colour coded event. An attendance of over 100 people is considered to be “good”. Attendances in the Cape are somewhat lower where the average attendance is around 30-40 with anything over 50 considered as good. The introduction of the Young Orienteers Challenge (or YOC) in 2009 has seen a steady growth in numbers in both provinces.