The process of becoming an Olympic sport requires athletic activities to jump through several hoops and meet countless requirements. From receiving recognition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to maintaining an International Sports Federation (IF) status, several steps must be taken to give a sport Olympic credence. One such sport that has stood the test of time and become a staple of the Olympics is curling. Although this winter sport has gone in and out of vogue, it looks like it’s here to stay.
What is Curling?
Curling is an ice sport for two teams of four people each. In a typical match, teams take turns navigating stones towards goals, known in the game as “Houses.” Teams also give titles and roles to their members. For instance, fifth players are known as Alternates, or substitutes, while team captains and second-in-commands are known as Skips and Vice-Skips, respectively. On the ice, players are denoted as Lead, Second, Third, and Fourth. These titles determine which stones the player delivers.
Curling’s Olympic Journey
Curling is known as one of the world’s oldest team sports, according to the official Olympic organization. It dates back to the 1500s, when Scottish folk played the game during winter on iced-over lakes. Scotland was also the site of the first curling club formations, starting with the Grand Caledonian Curling Club in 1838. Although curling was prevalent throughout the 19th century, it wouldn’t appear at the Olympics until 1924. At this time, only men’s curling was performed, with bronze going to France, silver going to Sweden, and gold going to Great Britain. They were the only three countries to participate in the event, which may have impacted the Olympic committee’s opinion on the sport’s popularity.
From there, it had a tenuous relationship with the Olympic Winter Games. It wasn’t included again until 1932, and for the next several decades, it was only played as a “demonstration sport.” This denotation means that, while curling was played at the Olympic Games, it was not part of the official schedule of events, and was instead played to promote the sport itself.
Curling made its grand re-entrance as an official Olympic sport in 1998, with men’s and women’s brackets. Since then, it has been a staple of the Olympic Winter Games. At the most recent curling event in 2018, Sweden came in first with one gold and one silver medal, while Canada and the United States tied for second with one gold medal apiece. It’s hard to say who will take home gold at the next Olympic Winter Games in 2022, but perhaps curling’s European origins can give us a hint.