The Participant Groups of a Mass Sport Event and the Motives for Participation: Kainuu Orienteering Week and Orienteering World Championships 2013

Along with the growing popularity of leisure-time physical exercise among Finnish adults, the number of participants in the mass events of various sports, such as orienteering, has clearly been on the rise over the past few years. Orienteering has been studied fairly little in both sport tourism and sport sociology even though orienteering events attract numerous participants in Finland.

The main purpose of the study is to determine what kinds of orienteer groups participate in the Kainuu Orienteering Week. The target group com-prises Finnish over 18-year-old participants, and the data (N = 1,494) were col-lected via an electronic questionnaire. Based on the data, the orienteers were segmented into groups whose differences were examined from the viewpoint of their orienteering relationship and by utilising the concept of ‘serious lei-sure’.

Six participant groups with different orienteering relationships and partic-ipation motives were identified: 1) hangarounds, 2) uncommitted orienteers, 3) regular participants, 4) active orienteers, 5) competitive orienteers, and 6) life-style orienteers. For the groups most involved in orienteering, the sport can be regarded as a lifestyle. For some of the participants, orienteering is a hobby or pastime without, for example, goals related to development as an orienteer.

The following were identified as motives for participation in the Kainuu Orienteering Week: 1) content of orienteering, 2) content of the event, 3) travel destination, 4) traditions, 5) the participant’s status, 6) orienteering as enter-tainment, 7) relaxation, and 8) social contacts. The most important motives were related to the content of orienteering (courses, maps and terrains), the traditions of the event, orienteering as entertainment, and social contacts.

The six participant groups identified indicate how broad the spectrum of participants in orienteering and its mass events is. The growth in popularity is partly explained by the skill level categories of orienteering and its events, the positive attitudes toward fitness orienteering, and the strong family-centeredness of the activities. For most participants, orienteering is clearly an important leisure activity, which they want to commit to and spend time on. However, fitness orienteering and the skill level categories seem to make ori-enteering and its events accessible also for those who do not necessarily want to commit to club activities or to the training required by competitive orienteer-ing.


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University of Jyväskylä