Ratlaupfélagið Hekla

History of orienteering in Iceland


(Story based on Peo Bengtsson)



In 1977 the Norwegian sport-journalist and orienteer Helge Bovim started map-drawing at Hallormsstadur near Egilsstadir in the NW. part of Iceland. Here Helge found the largest area of forest in Iceland. Mårten Berglia (at that time a clever junior-runner, in 1983 he became world-champion) and Jörg Luchsinger fieldworked the map together with Helge Bovim. The map with the name of Hallormsstadarskógur was printed in the scale of 1:15 000 with 5 m. contour interval. There was also organized a competition, and the reigning world-champion Egil Johansen won that.

But there was no special speed with the development of orienteering in Iceland, where today 115.000 people of the whole population (about 300.000 people) are living in the capital town Reykjavik, and Egilsstadir is situated too far (about 700 km) from Reykjavik.

In the autumn of 1988 two travels of the 21st Autumn east tour was organized during the same time-period in the autumn, both to eastern North America and to middle Europe. The airline Icelandair had the best and cheapest flight-possibilities to New York, but we had a stop of 5 hours at Reykjavik in day-light. I decided to use this disadvantage as a possibility for Reykjavik-orienteering.

The meterolog and orienteer Caje Jacobsson visited Reykjavik earlier during 1988 in her work, and she found not only good areas for orienteering, but she also got suitable contact-addresses.

With help of my friend Per Sandberg I found a Norwegian junior – Per Arne Troset from Trondheim. He spent about more than one week at Reykjavik, and he fieldworked one park-map (Miklatún in scale 1:4.000 with 1 m. contour interval) and a small forest-map ( Öskjuhlíd in scale 1:6.000 with 2 m. contour interval), situated only about 300 m. from the park-map.

When we arrived with our flight to Reykjavik, Caje Jakobsson´s contact Anton Bjarnasson (a wellknown sport-leader) met us with a bus. We arrived to the map-areas in Reykjavik, and about 10 of us ran out with 1-2 controls each. When we came back from this, we had mass-start with the spreading Motala-method. We ran 4 small courses in different orders in the Miklatún-park, after that we ran on the streets to Öskjuhlíd and a fifth course there before the running back to Miklatún.

Stefan Branth – in1988 he was one of the best orienteers in Sweden, today he is very well-known from TV-program as a very clever medical doctor – became the winner of this legendary competition, which also got some minutes in Iceland-TV. After the competition we got shower and bus-travel back to the airport, and we paid back to Anton Bjarnason with controls, punches, OL-flags and the Iceland-maps.

But in spite of thosegifts there was no special speed in the orienteetring-development in Iceland. In 1993 WOC was organized near New York in USA, and my company WWOP (World Wide Orienteerting Promorion) organized a travel via Reykjavik to New York and WOC. We had accomodation during one night in Reykjavik, and we took the possibilities to have a similar competition as in 1988 there. We found a new contact-man – another sport-teacher Páll Olafsson. He had also studied during one year at Stockholm GIH (the Swedish Sport-University), and he was already very good in orienteering and the Swedish language.

Páll was not only a sport-teacher, he had also a sport-shop, where he sold special equipment for sport. He participated twice in O-Ringen Clinic (1996 and 1999).

In 1997 I sent Perola Olsson (today one of the most famous OL-mappers in the world) and Morgan Svensson to Iceland as mappers. They revided Miklatún-map and Öskjuhlíd-map and they made Öskjuhlíd-map 3 times large and in scale 1:7 500 with 2 m. contour interval. They also fieldworked 3 more Reykjavik maps – Ellidaárdalur in scale 1:10 000 with 2 m.contour interval, Laugardalur in 1:5 000 with 2 m. contour interval and Gálgahraun (lava area) in scale 1:5 000 with 2 m. contour interval.

In the summer of 1999 I organized a travel to the whole of Iceland – Reykjavik with OL-competitions, flight Reykjavik – Egilsstadir and a competition on the 1977-map, after that car-travel about 750 km via Akureyri to Reykjavik and more OL-competitions there.

In the summer of 2002 I organized another travel together with Christers Resor (a travel-agency from my home-town Kristianstad). During that summer 4 young students (one of them Mattias Karlsson is now running for Haldens SK and for the Swedish national team) from Olofström orienteering-gymnasium made an OL-map at the Iceland sport university, so you can have orienteering-exercises there.

In 2008 I came in contact with a British orienteer Kevan Latham, who had moved to Iceland.Through the ex-president Björn R. Berntsen in Norwegian Orienteering Federation I have got contact with Kevan, and all WWOP paper-OL-maps and OCAD-files have been delivered.

In 2010 came to Iceland Mihkel Järveoja from Estonia together with his friend Markus Pussepp and they started to revide WWOP “old” Iceland maps, to make new maps and to organize training-competitions. Mihkel and his 2 Estonian friends Timo Sild and Markus Puusepp were WOC-junior-champions in relay in 2006.

The Orienteering Club Hekla was formed in Desember 2009.