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Curling on Red Square

Published time: December 06, 2010 09:17
Edited time: December 06, 2010 12:52

The sport of curling has received a popularity boost in Russia, with no less a venue than Moscow’s Red Square playing host to an exhibition event.

­Politicians, showbiz personalities and sports stars alike are all braving the sub-zero temperatures to showcase their skills.Curling’s been around for almost 500 years, but to Russians it is a new sport, played here for only 20 years.

At the moment fewer than a thousand people across the country are actively involved in playing it. But with the Sochi Winter Games looming in 2014, curling desperately needs to get through to the masses for Russia to stand any chance of making it to the Olympic podium. 

“I think that now the whole of Russia will know what curling is. It’s a new kind of sport for us, but if we are hosting a curling event on Red Square, then, curling has a future. Foreigners say that if Russia takes up something, it will definitely see it through to completion. Curling will become popular in all parts of Russia and people will play it in winter,” Marat Bariev, executive director of Russian Olympic Committee, said.

Russian curlers have yet to make an impact on the international scene. The Olympic Games, as well as World and European events, are dominated by countries like Sweden, Great Britain, Switzerland and Canada, where the sport is loved by a lot more people.

So the Russian Olympic Committee has decided to raise the level of domestic competition by inviting talent from Canada. At the moment, an experimental men’s national team is comprised of two Russian and three Canadian curlers led by another Canadian coach, Patti Wuthrich.

“At the moment, it’s hard to gauge the success of our Canadian colleagues in Russia. The only thing I know is that competition was tight at the Russian national curling championship. We saw many tough matches. Our players must have felt the pressure, pulled themselves together and started showing a better performance. But it’s too early to make any long-term forecasts,” Olga Zharkova, vice president of Russian Curling Federation, said.

The 2014 Olympic Winter Games and the 2018 football World Cup will bring Russia closer to the World. But the aim is not just to be a genial host – Russia wants to win.

Moscow’s iconic Red Square hosts a number of sports events every year, and curling is surely among the most exotic. The heart of the capital has already acted as a launching pad for Formula 1 racing in Russia. The result: in 2014 the country will stage its own race in the Olympic capital of Sochi.

Will curling get a similar boost? The evidence will come at the next Olympic Winter Games.