Sport Sporting festivals

Curling’s clean sweep

Written by Ben Blaschke

For those of us who reside in the warmer regions of the planet, the Winter Olympics is a slightly unusual spectacle. Comprising a whole range of sports we’ve barely heard of – with a bit of hockey and skating thrown in for good measure – we can do little other than marvel as these slightly insane athletes hurl themselves down steep mountain and risk life and limb on hard, icy half pipes.

But when it comes to unusual winter sports, nothing beats curling. The sight of two grown men holding “brooms” and sweeping the ice like mad is truly one to behold, albeit one that is as baffling as it is fascinating. In truth, the concept of curling is pretty simple. One team member pushes a large, heavy stone down a long ice sheet with the goal of having it stop inside a circular bullseye painted at the other end. Each four member team has eight stones and the closer to the centre of the bullseye each stone stops, the more points they accrue. Provided the first team member gets the weight of his slide right, it is then up to the other team members to ensure the stone stops in the bullseye by sweeping the ice in front of it to reduce friction. The faster they sweep, the more the ice will melt and the less resistance there will be for the stone.

Of course, curling might not be your cup of tea, but the good news this year is that the Norwegian curling team has decided to spice things up by wearing some weird and wacky pants during competition at the Sochi Games. Having first caught the eye in Vancouver four years ago where they won the silver medal in bright check pants, Norway has taken it to a new level in 2014 with some dainty floral arrangements and another design based loosely around the Norwegian flag thrown in for good measure. In total they have nine different types to show off to the world in the coming weeks and it’s hard to deny that they’ve found a novel way to garner some much needed media attention.

While curling attracts a reasonable following in Canada in particular and to a lesser extent in the Nordic countries such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, it certainly can’t claim to boast the popularity of the headline sports such as ice hockey or ski jumping, so it’s great to see the competitors taking matters into their own hands.

It won’t be replacing the English Premier League in World Gaming’s Saturday night television schedule, but thanks to the efforts of Team Norway we’ll be spending at least a few hours during the Sochi Games watching them sweep up a storm.