Curling is a precision sport similar to bowls or bocce, but played on ice with polished heavy stones rather than plastic balls. The game is generally believed to have been invented in 16th century Scotland, although two paintings (both dated 1565 ) by Pieter Brueghel the Elder depict Dutch peasants curling. Outdoor curling was very popular in Scotland between the 16th and the 19th centuries when the climate was cold enough to ensure good ice conditions every winter, and as a result the international governing body for curling, the World Curling Federation, is based in Perth, Scotland.
The game is most firmly established in Canada. The Royal Montreal Curling Club, the first sporting club of any kind in North America, was established in 1807. The first curling club in the United States began in 1832, and the game was introduced to Switzerland and Sweden before the end of the nineteenth century. Today, curling is played all over Europe and has spread to Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and even China and Korea.
Curling has been an official sport in the Winter Olympics since the 1998 Winter Olympic Games. In February 2006 the IOC included the winning curling teams in the 1924 Winter Olympic Games, originally called Semaine des Sports d'Hiver ("International Winter Sports Week"), as medal winners in an official Olympic tournament. Previous opinion had been that all sports then had been demonstration events. Curling was on that occasion played outdoors.
The origins of the word curling are not known. It was first used in print in 1630 in Perth, Scotland. Also known as "the roaring game" (because of the sound the stones make while travelling over the pebble), curling probably does not take its name from the motion of the stones. In the early history of curling, the rocks were simply flat-bottomed river stones which were sometimes notched or shaped; the thrower had little control over the rock, and relied more on luck than skill to win. One possible derivation is that it came from the old verb curr which describes a low rumble. Nevertheless, today a rock which deviates from a straight line is said to curl.
Curling is a team game, played between two teams of four curlers each. The team members are named according to the order in which they throw in each end. The lead (or first) for each team throws first, followed by the second, third (also vice skip, vice, or mate), and the skip who is the team captain; this order is not mandatory, and some prominent teams (for example, Randy Ferbey's) reverse the order in which the skip and third throw.
The Skip in curling is the captain of the team, and is the one that calls the shots in the game. The skip is the one that holds the broom indicating where the player throwing must aim. When it is the skip's turn to throw, another player (usually the third) holds the broom. The skip rarely does any sweeping, except in the playing area- behind the hog line. The skip is required to stay out of the playing area when it is the other team's shot. The skip usually throws the last two rocks of the end, however some teams have the skip throwing in other positions. Except in International or some National and Provincial events (in Canada, Quebec or the US only), a team's name will usually be the last name of the skip. For example, Randy Ferbey's foursome will be known as "Team Ferbey" unless they are in the National or World Championships (they would be known as team Alberta and Team Canada, respectively). In international rules, the skip (when he or she is not throwing) is the only player allowed to sweep behind the tee-line.
The third is the player who throws the fifth and sixth rocks in the game. The third usually assists the skip in his or her duties. When it is the skip's turn to throw, it is usually the third who holds the broom for the skip. Depending on the tradition, the third is also the player charged with keeping score. When the third's team scores, the third will alter the score-board accordingly. The third also must reach an agreement with the opposing third after the end of an end over who scored and how many points. If there is a disagreement, or uncertainty, the thirds may measure the rocks to see which ones are closer. At this time, only the thirds are allowed in the house. Of course, in major tournaments, the score keeping is left to an official. Usually, the thirds sweep for the second and the lead.
The second throws the third and fourth rocks in an end. The second usually sweeps for all other players.
The lead is the player who throws the first two rocks of an end. Depending on the tradition, the lead may flip a coin with the opposing lead to determine who will have last rock advantage at the beginning of a game. The winner of the toss has the option to either pick last rock or the colour of the rocks they wish to play with. Again, in major tournaments, these decisions are usually made before hand. Strategically, the lead usually has similar shots from end to end, usually throwing guards or draws. The lead usually sweeps for the second, third and skip.