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The Rock is in the House
Throwing Stones at the Winter Olympics

listen Listen to Robert Smith's report.

Tom Goldman takes aim with rifle

NPR's Robert Smith slides the rock toward the house.
Photo: Rob Ballenger

Jan. 27, 2002 -- According to legend, curling was invented in Scotland in the 1500s as a winter pastime for golfers. And although it never achieved the popularity of golf, curling did prove to have staying power.

Curling involves sliding a heavy object -- called the rock, or stone -- across an expanse of ice toward a target called the "house." One team member slides the rock, while others use brooms to sweep the ice along its path. Their brisk efforts improve the sliding surface for the rock, which resembles a cross between a steam iron and a teakettle.

It isn’t just target practice -- there is strategy involved. You can knock opponents' rocks out of position with your own rock, or you can try to place your rock in such a way as to make it difficult for your opponent to aim.

Most Americans see curling, at best, once every four years, during the Winter Olympics. But it's pretty popular in Europe, Canada and a few U.S. cities near the northern border.

To try to understand the appeal of this strange game, NPR's Robert Smith took to the ice recently for Weekend Edition Sunday at the Granite Curling Club in Seattle. One thing he learned is that, despite appearances, you have to be in good shape to be a good curler. "As promised," he says, "the next morning, my thighs felt stiff as boards."

Other Resources

The USA Curling Association.

The World Curling Federation.

The Curling Zone offers news and info.