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Britain’s silver in men’s curling, following the women’s bronze, is, of
course, good news. The failure to secure gold, while not itself good news,
may be regarded by those who have paid attention to this well-bred sport as
something to be faced in the Spirit of Curling. Rapt television audiences
have learnt (if they had forgotten from four years ago) that a stone must
never be burnt with a broom, that guards are thrown in front of the house
and that the hammer should on occasion be retained until the next end. But
more important than the rich lexicon of curling is the absence from it of an
equivalent to cricket’s sledging.
The Spirit of Curling eschews gamesmanship such as critical commentary on the
opponents’ play. Just as Wimbledon crowds once upon a time never cheered a
double fault, so curlers feel it bad form to rejoice in the other chaps’
mistakes. One’s own fouls are openly confessed. And even in the Olympic
final, Great Britain conceded the match before the bitter end.
Is it too romantic to link the courtesy of curling with the reticent beauty of
the object at its centre: a granite stone sliding on ice? The stone, a solid
38 or 44lb, is sculpted so that only a ring of its bottom surface comes into
contact with the ice. The shaped granite, from the island of Ailsa Craig,
would please a Henry Moore or Barbara Hepworth. If players of curling are to
sport what Noh players are to theatre, they at least remind us what playing
the game means.