The official VIP event launch is over, and now the brand new Neutrogena Curling Arena is now open to the public. From today through August 22, Brazilians can try curling, the Olympic winter sport that caused a frenzy through TV screens in that country. One of the event organizers has been in Brasil since last weekend and has been reporting exclusively for The Curling News.
by Chad McMullan
SAO PAULO – South America’s first-ever curling organizing committee is exhausted, and totally running on fumes... but we love it.
Thursday was the longest day, culminating in the evening VIP launch which was, in a word, spectacular.
Wednesday, Day Four, featured completing the ice surface and welcoming our two Canadian curling instructors, Hollie Nicol and Brian Chick. The first-ever curling stone was thrown in Brasil, and Brian got the honours. As you can see by the photo above, he caught our photographer completely by surprise, and was nearly out of the camera frame before the photo was taken!
It’s worth mentioning, however, that the first person to throw a South American curling stone to the button, the centre of the house and the ultimate display of curling prowess combined with mental fortitude, was our chief ice technician, Mark Shurek. And in true ice tech style, he managed the feat without a slider, a brush, nor a sliding delivery.
We would expect nothing less!
In addition, our celebrity curling star, Norwegian women’s skip (captain) Linn Githmark, arrived from the Land of LoudMouth Curling Pants and tried to get some sleep before her gruelling Thursday with the media.
Media interest in Brasil for The Roaring Game is nothing short of fantastic, a direct result of the incredible television ratings Brasilians produced during the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. The interest was so high – also reflected in tens of thousands of Twitter tweets and the creation of Brasil-based curling blogs – that additional playoff coverage of the men’s and women’s world championships made it on to Brasilian TV screens.
And THAT is why the media and public are coming out in droves to the Neutrogena Curling Arena here at Shopping Eldorado, it clearly has NOTHING to do with the fact that Linn is an attractive blonde woman who was one of the first curling calendar girls back in 2005/06 (left).
How can it be any clearer, really?
On that note, Linn gave us some thoughts on this entire experience, despite the fact that she’s still jet-lagged and we’ve only really just begun.
When I got the invitation to come to Brasil my first thought was, how will I be able to get time off work? Linn said with a chuckle.
I have actually never been to any of the South American countries before, so I was really looking forward to getting down to Brazil. It’s a good start to visiting a new continent and I'm really happy to be here. My friend married her Brazilian boyfriend last year and has lived here for a while, and she speaks really highly of the country and its people!
What I hope to accomplish is to let Brasilians in on just how much fun you can have with curling in your life. It is a great sport that suits everyone, and you can play it your whole life.
It would be fantastic if more countries from South America gathered around the best game in the world!
Incidentally, Linn is well-travelled: in addition to tremendous curling experience she has achieved around the world, she also studied Mandarin Chinese and East Asian culture/politics for four years, which included living in China for two years – most of that in in Beijing and another six months in Kunming, in the south.
On Thursday, we trained the Brasilian instructors that will now work with Hollie and Brian for the next 10 days, giving the perfect rookie curling experience to thousands of Brasilians. We also spent time fine-tuning the ice surface of the new, unofficial and very temporary Sao Paulo Curling Club (SPCC) in preparation for the 7:00pm launch.
As predicted, it was a media bombardment for Linn. She remained standing, smiling, crouching, sliding and throwing stones through non-stop interviews for television, radio, print and online outlets.Every big player in Brasil was present or will be attending on Friday.
The launch was hosted by the Associação de Apoio à Dermatite Atópica, the Brazilian Atopic Dermatitis Association, who are receiving fundraising proceeds from this event.
Over 100 people rammed into the Arena – mostly doctors and specialists in the industry, along with various client types and special guests – and there were the usual hors d'ouvres, champagne, speeches, and so on.
Then, finally, came the first official curling match (of sorts) contested on South American soil, an exhibition game of Guys versus Girls: myself, Brian and Mark versus Linn, Hollie and Fernanda, the Brasilian instructor who just learned to curl a few hours prior!
The guys won 2-0 on the pressure-packed last stone of the second and final end of play.
After game we opened the ice to contest winners, doctors and other guests to try the sport. The evening festivities were supposed to end at 10:00pm, but we couldn’t shut it down until about 11:30pm because people would not leave the ice. All night there was a lineup to get onto the ice surface – we basically had to kick people off. Most of those people who made it onto the ice during the promotion were vowing returning again, sometime between today and August 22, to play again!
We managed to shoot a brief video to accompany these words and pictures: click here to view.
More coming soon!
[Click on photos to view in larger size]