Richard Harding, development officer with the World Curling Federation, is interviewed at the Greenock rink and tells how curling dates from the fifteenth century. The Dutch claim to have started it on frozen canals, and a painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, from around 1547, appears to show the sport.
There are usually four players on each team, each of whom has a duty in the "end", be it sending down the stone, sweeping it en route to the "house", or standing in the house and calling the play. The team members rotate through these tasks, and a game lasts for eight ends.
Each stone has a handle on top, and whether the stone curls from right to left or left to right is determined by the rotation of the handle as it is released.
In Scotland there are around 30 places to go curling, almost half of them dedicated purely to the sport (as with the Greenock rink). Canada has around 1,100 rinks, and every little town in the prairie provinces has its curling club. Even warm places in the United States, such as California and Florida, have curling clubs, while there are half a dozen venues in Spain.
In England there was no curling at all until 2002, and until then it was reckoned that up to 70 per cent of the UK population did not know what curling was.
Then came the success of Rhona Martin and her team, from Greenock, who won gold at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002, playing as the GB curling team. Six million television viewers watched the exciting finish, and this led to interest not only in Scotland, but also south of the border, with the first English rink being built in Tunbridge Wells.