Great Brasilian Curling Adventure Part VIII

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L to R: Chad, Fabio Coelho of Ginga,brasilis and Mark

L to R: Chad, Fabio Coelho of Ginga,brasilis and Mark

by Chad McMullan

We don’t have an equivalent word in English, but I now understand the meaning of saudade.

It was Sunday morning when I first started typing these words at JFK airport as I waited for my connection to Toronto. I am completely and utterly exhausted – both physically and mentally, but at the same time also incredibly excited for what lies ahead.

History was made, and it was no gimmick. Make no mistake, the ultimate goal and reason this project even existed was to execute a successful marketing event for a client (Neutrogena) that thought it would be a cool idea to leverage the sport of curling. Mission accomplished. But what stands out to everyone involved in this adventure is the love Brasilians have showed for curling from day one.

Let me provide you with a quick background on my history with the country, as well as the short history of curling in Brasil. This was not my first time in Brasil – I have actually been there seven times now, all starting with a completely random, short-notice trip in 1999. I instantly fell in love with this country and its people, and I continue to come back.

My brother was one of my travel partners on that now infamous first holiday, and he took things to a whole other level. He is as carioca (Rio native) as a gringo can possibly get without having been born there; he now has a Paulistana wife and a house in Rio. Ironically, he just took a multi-year contract in Colombia – mere months before my trip to Brasil, so no family visit! – but they will return in time.

To make a long story short, when the initial call came from Ginga regarding this project, there was no chance in hell I would let it happen without me.

As for Brasil, prior to February 2010 many Brasilians did not even know there was a Winter Olympics. Vancouver 2010 was the first Winter Games ever broadcast on a major non-cable TV carrier in Brasil. And for reasons that we are still trying to comprehend, curling was the runaway smash hit, gripping the people almost instantly and refusing to let go. Over the past week I heard many a story of how families gathered to watch the curling games, and tried to figure out what exactly was taking place on their TV screens. How students did poorly on exams, because they couldn’t study while curling was on. It seemed everyone had a story to tell along these lines.

A Brasilian internet buzz started during the Games and has only increaased since. Brasilian curling blogs and Twitterers have taken over. Search #curling on Twitter: there may be as many tweets in Portuguese as there are in English these days. We had visitors that came from as far as Rio, Curitiba and other cities just to try this sport. They first fell in love with it months ago, and couldn’t believe they would soon have a chance to try it in their own backyard.

And whether it is curling in Canada, Scotland, Norway or Brasil, this game is always about the friendships made along the way, and this past week was no different. Massive thanks go out to the gang at Ginga,brasilis – one of the best groups of people I have ever worked with. This crew knew nothing about curling from the start but their belief in their ability to do the impossible made it happen.

Eight other agencies were also approached regarding this project, and not one of them had the ability – or the guts – to pull it off. They worked around the clock, sometimes spending multiple sleepless nights in a row, and yet still had time to entertain us and show us a small slice of this city of 20 million. Um abraco grande para:Fabio, Gui, Karol, Elder, Peixe, and even little Ginga! And of course big thanks to the rest of the supporting staff as well: Luiz (our driver), MacGyver aka Kleverson (Brazil’s first ice technician), Desiree and the gang at Ice Star, and everyone else we met along the way.

While Mark Shurek and I are no longer in Brasil, The Adventure is by no means over. Brian and Hollie will remain in Brasil, continuing to teach curling to this eager country, until the end of the promotion on August 22. Keep checking The Curling News Blog as they will have further posts... and I might just sneak in another as well.

Perhaps what I’m feeling is not the true definition of saudade since in this case I know I will be back, and more than likely some of those visits will be with a curling pedra in hand.