Curling has been described as the ‘Roarin’ Game’, with the ‘roar’ coming from the noise of a granite stone as it travels over the ice. The exact origins of the game, however, are unclear, but curling is widely believed to be one of the world’s oldest team sports.
Paintings by a 16th century Flemish artist, Pieter Bruegel (1530-1569) portrayed an activity similar to curling being played on frozen ponds. The first written evidence appeared in Latin, when in 1540, John McQuhin, a notary in Paisley, Scotland, recorded in his protocol book a challenge between John Sclater, a monk in Paisley Abbey and Gavin Hamilton, a representative of the Abbot. The report indicated that Sclater threw a stone along the ice three times and asserted that he was ready for the agreed contest.
What is clear, however, is that what may have started as an enjoyable pastime of throwing stones over ice during a harsh Northern European winter, has evolved into a popular modern sport with its own world championships, which attract fans and large television audiences.
Curling in its early days was played on frozen lochs and ponds. When the weather permits, the game is still enjoyed outside in some countries, but all national and international competitive curling competitions now take place in indoor rinks with the condition and temperature of the ice carefully controlled.
The first recognized curling clubs were formed in Scotland, and during the 19th century the game was exported wherever Scots settled around the world in cold climates, most notably at that time in Canada, United States, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway and New Zealand.
The first Rules were drawn up in Scotland, and they were formally adopted as the “Rules in Curling” by the Grand Caledonian Curling Club, which was formed in Edinburgh in 1838 and became the sport’s governing body. Four years later, following a demonstration of curling on the ballroom floor of Scone Palace near Perth by the Earl of Mansfield during a visit by Queen Victoria, the Queen was so fascinated by the game that in 1843 she gave permission for the Club’s name to be changed to the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.
It is recorded that international curling events were staged in the 19th century in Europe and North America, but it was not until the first Olympic Winter Games in 1924, in Chamonix, France that any form of official international competition took place for men’s teams. Great Britain defeated Sweden and France in what was retroactively accepted in 2006 by the International Olympic Committee as curling’s Olympic debut, with medals awarded.
In 1932 at Lake Placid, United States, curling again was listed but this time as a demonstration sport at the 1932 Olympic Winter Games. Canada was the winner over United States in a two-country competition where each nation entered four men’s teams.
Another 25 years passed before a meeting was held in Edinburgh in 1957 to consider the formation of an international organisation which would be required in order to apply for Olympic medal status. No progress was documented, but two years later, in 1959, Scotland and Canada reached a major milestone by launching the Scotch Cup series between their national men’s curling champions.
Interest in other countries was generated, and the United States (1961), Sweden (1962), Norway, Switzerland (both 1964), France (1966) and Germany (1967) expanded the Scotch Cup entry. The 1959-1967 results are now recognized in the curling history of the men’s world championship.
The success of the Scotch Cup series led to another attempt, in March 1965, to create a global administration. The Royal Caledonian Curling Club (Scotland) convened a meeting in Perth, Scotland, and six countries – Scotland, Canada, United States, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland – agreed to a proposal to form an international committee of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, to be called the International Curling Federation.
The following year, in March, 1966, in Vancouver, Canada, a draft constitution for the International Curling Federation was considered by seven countries – France was added to the original six – and the Federation was declared to be established as of 1 April 1966. Though in attendance at these meetings, the United States opted to be there in an observational capacity only and therefore didn’t become a member of the International Curling Federation until 1967.
The constitution was approved in March 1967, at Perth, and a set of rules for international competition was proposed. At the Federation’s annual meeting in 1968 in Pointe-Claire, Quebec, Canada, these rules were adopted, but are subject to amendment and revision each year.
Also, in 1968, the Air Canada Silver Broom replaced the Scotch Cup, and it was sanctioned as the World Curling Championship. In 1975, the Federation endorsed the World Junior Men’s Curling Championship; in 1979 the Ladies’ Curling Championship; and in 1988, the World Junior Ladies’ Curling Championship. The four events were combined into two in 1989 at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States and Markham, Ontario, Canada and became known as the World Curling Championships and the World Junior Curling Championships.
The Constitution had a significant adjustment in 1982, when the Federation was declared an independent entity and approved as the governing body for curling in the world, while the Royal Caledonian Curling Club was acknowledged as the ‘Mother Club of Curling’.
In 1990, the name of the Federation was changed to the World Curling Federation.
Curling was a demonstration sport for second and third times at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games (Calgary) and the 1992 Games (Albertville) for women’s and men’s teams.
On 21 July 1992, at its session in Barcelona, Spain, the International Olympic Committee granted official medal status to women’s and men’s curling, to take effect no later than the Olympic Winter Games 2002, with an option for inclusion in 1998 at Nagano, Japan. During the meeting of the International Olympic Committee Executive Board held between 22 and 23 June 1993, in Lausanne, the Organising Committee of the Nagano Olympic Winter Games officially agreed to include curling in the programme of the XVIII Olympic Winter Games in 1998. Eight teams for women and men participated in Nagano, and this was increased to ten from the Olympic Winter Games Salt Lake City 2002 onwards.
At the Semi-Annual General Assembly of the Federation in Leukerbad, Switzerland, in December 1993, a revised Constitution was adopted. This included changes to the management structure. The revised structure became operational following the election of the Executive Board at the Annual General Assembly in Oberstdorf, Germany, in April 1994.
From 1966 to 1994, the administration of the International Curling Federation and the World Curling Federation was the responsibility of employees of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club. Following the adoption of the revised Constitution, the World Curling Federation set up its own head office and secretariat in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1994.
At the Semi-Annual General Assembly of the Federation in Grindelwald, Switzerland in December 1995, a completely re-written Constitution was adopted in order to comply with Swiss law following the Federation’s registration in that country.
In May 2000, the World Curling Federation Secretariat moved from Edinburgh to Perth, Scotland.
Wheelchair curling was introduced during the 2000 World Handi Ski Championship in Crans Montana Switzerland. Switzerland and Sweden were the only countries competing. During a seminar on wheelchair curling held at that time, discussions on the format of the discipline took place and it was decided that the game should be played as close to the regular game as possible.
The following year the first International Wheelchair Curling Bonspiel took place in Sursee Switzerland. This proved to be a test event for the first World Wheelchair Curling Championship held in January 2002, with the home team winning the inaugural title.
In March 2002 the International Paralympic Committee granted official medal status to wheelchair curling for mixed gender teams. The organising committee of the Torino Paralympic Winter Games in 2006 agreed to include wheelchair curling in their programme.
Other international events introduced in 2002 included World Senior Curling Championships for women and men.
In 2005, the World Men’s and Women’s Championships were separated once again, and held in different parts of the world. Also, that year, the European Youth Olympic Festival introduced a curling competition for junior women and men between 15 and 18 years of age. Curling also became part of the inaugural Youth Olympic Winter Games in Innsbruck, Austria in 2012.
The growth of the sport in Asia was recognised with the first World Women’s Curling Championship being held in Aomori, Japan, in 2007 and the first World Men’s Curling Championship to be held in Asia taking place in Beijing, China, in 2014.
In 2008, the first World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship was staged in Vierumaaki, Finland. Mixed doubles curling marks a break from traditional curling, as teams are comprised of two players – one female and one male. In 2015, the discipline was accepted as an additional event for the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, in South Korea – where eight teams competed for medals.
In 2015, the International Paralympic Committee also confirmed that the wheelchair curling event in PyeongChang in 2018 would be expanded from 10 to 12 teams. Mixed doubles was increased, from eight to ten teams, for the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, in China
Also, in season 2014-2015, ‘Curling: Pure Emotion’, a sculpture by curler Bjorn Zyrd was unveiled, by President Kate Caithness, at the Olympic Museum Park in Lausanne, Switzerland. This was the first Olympic Winter sport to have such an artefact at the museum.
In 2016, the World Curling Federation celebrated its 50th anniversary. That year a Sweeping Summit was arranged near Ottawa, Canada to address the rules of sweeping. This resulted in one of the sport’s most significant set of rule changes to date, following a season that challenged the conventions of how stones should be swept and what types of fabrics should be used on brushes.
In 2018 the Curling World Cup had its debut as a new four leg series where women’s, men’s and mixed doubles teams competed for money while representing their Member Associations.