Indoor Orienteering at Ikea Uppsala, Sweden

In August, eight DVO members took part in the Swedish ORingen, the world’s largest orienteering event staged annually in Sweden. Helen Chiswell was lucky enough to be able to take part in an unusual rest-day activity …

After two years of Covid delays, we were finally able to tick-off an orienteers’ bucket-list item and attend the ORingen in Uppsala! You’ll be able to read the write up of the main ORingen competition September Newstrack, but safe to say it was a fantastic experience and the ORingen is now firmly on my list of “must repeat” events!

On the activity day (note the Swedes don’t even deign to call it a rest day!) one of the events on offer was Ikea-O! As the only club member to gain an entry to this sold-out event, it falls to me to do the write up of this somewhat quirky race! As I think the name gives away, this was an indoor sprint race around the Uppsala Ikea superstore! Best and strangest of all, it was to take place whilst the store remained open to the public! Competitors were just asked to be courteous towards shoppers!

The first (and I think toughest part of the competition) was gaining an entry! Starters were limited to around 1,500 and I think the locals had the inside track on when entries were opening! I happened to see the Facebook post announcing entries were available, entered almost instantly and 10 mins later all the entries were gone! Other Derbyshire club members were very envious of our entry success!

I had been wondering if I would regret my entry, as my last experience of Indoor-O in Sweden was not so successful (Stockholm Indoor Cup; see May 2019 Newstrack)! The courses at that event were so complicated and getting round them was nothing really like orienteering and more like solving an extra complicated maze!

The details for the event were released very last minute and gave no time to absorb the new meaning for all our familiar O symbols! I decided just to hope it was obvious once I saw the map and focused on remembering the 1:1,200 scale!

The start was somewhat chaotic. We left the start lane and headed up the stairs, mixed in with all the shoppers to the top floor, where the map boxes were on the floor next to an Ikea double bed! Everyone stood still bewildered for much longer than at a normal start. It took a while to find the start on the map and then adjust your mind to all the detail!

Forgetting the 1:1,200 scale, I completely overshot number 1 which was tucked in the corner of a “bedroom”. Controls were on upturned Ikea bins, which had been painted in control colours!

I soon got into the swing of things and soon found myself breaking in a jog as confidence built and the heat of the competition got to me! There was the added obstacle of the leisurely strolling shoppers to avoid though!

I found the key was to use the larger walls that divided the store up into its sections to navigate. They were quite obvious and the gaps in them gave good “attack points”! The trickiest controls were those (like number 10) that were hidden away in shower trays of the en-suite sections behind the bedrooms. The en-suite rooms were so small it was easy to overlook them altogether and start looking for the control on the wrong side of the wall!

Soon it was time to transition to floor 1, and, remembering my previous encounter with indoor-O, this is where I thought things might get complicated. However I was pleased to find that there were no such complicated stairway mazes, and this indoor Ikea-O was really just about orienteering indoors. I headed down stairway A and straight off to number 22.

We were now orienteering amongst the china and glassware! I could hardly believe that Ikea would have allowed this! After a couple of legs around here, we popped out into the warehouse section – where you normally go to collect your flat pack furniture before you pay! There were several legs up and down the aisles here, and tactics had to switch to carefully counting aisles to work out which one to go down to find the control. With a bit more space, fewer shoppers and less breakables, it was now possible to run with a bit more pace!

We passed through the tills (by number 36) and down again to the car park level, where there were a couple of straightforward controls and a run in across the car park outside! I had taken 22 mins. The winner took just 11 minutes – I think he must have been an avid Ikea shopper with an inside knowledge of the layout!

The course and the whole experience was really novel and great fun. I’m glad we managed to “steal” an entry! We finished off the afternoon with coffee and cinnamon buns in the Ikea café with the Swalwells who had come along to cheer us on and take photos and videos!

Ikea results here:

Video here:

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