Today, curling is an international Olympic sport played by more
than two million people in thirty nations, but its ancestral homeland
is Scotland. Curling dates back to before the 16th century, when
it was first mentioned in Scottish records. In 1838, Edinburgh's
Royal Caledonian Curling Club (RCCC) was established and the rules
for play standardized. During the 20th century, curling increasingly
became an indoor sport as ice rinks were built throughout Scotland.
Curling is played on a sheet - a lane of ice 46 yards long and
14 yards wide. At each end of the sheet, a house of concentric circles
is painted around a center button. The goal of the game is to slide
the curling stone as close as possible to the button. A curling
team consists of four players, who deliver (slide) two stones each
in alternate turns with the opposing team. When all sixteen stones
are delivered, it constitutes an end. Matches have 10 and sometimes
12 ends. Each stone that winds up within the house and closer to
the button than the other team's stone scores a point. The team
with the most points after 10 or 12 ends wins the match.
Teams are led by a captain or skip. Players are helped by teammates
who use brushes to sweep the ice in front of a sliding stone to
make it go further or change its direction. Sweeping can lengthen
a delivery by as much as 10 feet.
Curling is played by thousands of Scots, who flock to indoor clubs
throughout Scotland. In years when the weather permits, the Bonspiel
- an outdoor match between Highland and Lowland Scotland -- is organized
on the Lake of Menteith near Aberfoyle. In 1998, curling became
an Olympic sport at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. And in 2002,
Scotland rejoiced when skip Rhona Martin led the Scottish Women's
Curling Team to an Olympic Gold Medal in Salt Lake City.