Stranmillis University College is bedecked with flags this week as it prepares to play host to a world ranking international race event on Good Friday (tomorrow).
The event will see more than 1,600 athletes from around the world racing over the grounds of Stranmillis and Queen’s Elms Village in the opening event in the annual Easter Jan Kjellström four-day international orienteering festival, which is taking place for the first time in Northern Ireland.
Orienteering is a sport traditionally associated with forests, dunes or open mountainsides, but more recently, navigating and running at breakneck speed through urban terrain has become increasingly popular.
Competitors from 23 nationalities are registered, from as far away as Japan, Australia, New Zealand, USA, Scandinavia and mainland Europe, and they range in age from eight year-olds to 80. Starting at one-minute intervals the runners will visit 28 control points, navigating around extremely complex courses across the approximately 80 acre area, and the ‘elite’ runners will finish the course in less than 15 minutes. This will be the first world ranking Sprint Orienteering race ever held in the UK and the competition will no doubt be fast and furious.
College Principal Dr Anne Heaslett said: “I am really pleased to be able to welcome NI Orienteering and all the visiting competitors to Stranmillis.
“I am very much looking forward to witnessing the spectacle of so many people racing around the beautiful grounds here and I am sure watching the runners sprinting home to the finish will be very exciting.”
The “JK” event is being sponsored by SportNI, Belfast City Council and the NITourist Board.
It is named after Swede Jan Kjellström, who tragically died in a road accident in 1967, aged only 27.
He was the son of the inventor of the innovative liquid-filled Silva compass, and played a key role in the development of orienteering as a sport in the UK.
The JK Festival website address is: http://www.jk2011.org.uk/