John wrote the following for the Febuary 2008 edition of OKnow.  The editor has made minor changes in order to make it more relevant to 2022.

The Competition Rules for Orienteering Australia Foot Orienteering Events state that for a national championship "The competition terrain shall not have been used for orienteering for as long as possible prior to the competition, so that no competitor has an unfair advantage" Rule 14.2. That rule applies to national championships. For major state events, the rules state that areas to be used be embargoed for at least three months.

So what does an embargo mean?

It’s really defined according to rule 26.5: "Any attempt to survey or train in the competition terrain is forbidden, unless explicitly permitted by the organiser". In good old school terms, the embargoed areas are out "of bounds", and the wrath of the headmaster will fall on you if you venture into the forbidden areas. (In my school days that mean ‘six of the best’ from the headmaster’s cane, or a Saturday morning detention - generally preferred, being less painful, and my teachers had a tendency to sleep in on Saturday mornings). In orienteering, "A competitor who breaks any rule, or who benefits from the breaking of any rule, may be disqualified Rule" 26.10.

Clearly, gaining knowledge of the terrain gives an orienteer an unfair advantage over someone who has no knowledge of it – i.e. it is important for the fairness factor. I think it is also important for the fun factor. To me, standing at the start for an event when I have never been in that terrain before and never seen the map, is one of the great ‘excitements’ of the sport.

A couple of factors over recent years have seen a little less emphasis placed on embargoes. First, areas in which to orienteer are (in some states and countries) becoming more difficult to find, and so there is a need to re-use areas for major events over shorter periods than in the past. Second, the Leibnitz Convention adopted by all orienteering nations in 2000, emphasises the desirability to make orienteering events more spectator and media friendly (especially the sprint format events). This might mean running events in terrain close to population centres (and that terrain may already have been extensively used), and often using public areas. In such circumstances, competitors should be well informed of the situation and have ready access to existing maps of the terrain. The principle of fairness is the over-riding guideline.