Monday, January 23, 2006

Curling uproar over 1924 Games

Two posts in one day... that's what happens when 82 years of Olympic history suddenly gets turned on its ear.

The IOC is now investigating: will the Scottish story prove to be premature... or not?

The curling world is in an uproar over The Herald's claim to have exposed this 82-year-old Olympic sporting secret. As explained in the previous post, The Herald reports the International Olympic Committee has confirmed that gold medals won by Great Britain in curling at the first Olympic Winter Games (photo), held in Chamonix in 1924, are now genuine, and should no longer be considered demonstration medals.

However, an IOC official, who declined formal comment, told The Curling News that Olympic archivists have now been assigned to verify the facts, and will confirm the information tomorrow: We’re digging out the official 1924 program, the official said. It’s been 80 years, and we’re going to take another day to look at it.

The news, confirmed or not, has shocked the curling world. If the claim is verified, the gold won at the 1998 Games in Nagano by Canada’s Sandra Schmirler and Switzerland’s Patrick Huerlimann would no longer be the first official curling medals ever handed out in Olympic competition.

That year, the IOC stated: In 1998 the Winter Olympic Games returned to Japan after 26 years. Snowboarding and curling debuted as official disciplines...

More TCN quotes, this time from the CCA's Dave Parkes:

That’s very surprising. There’s nothing I’m aware of regarding the World Curling Federation investigating this. It’s highly unlikely the IOC would approve that, even if it wasn’t their initiative. Particularly without contacting the international governing body of the sport.

The Herald uncovered evidence for its claim about the 1924 Olympic champions – father and son Willie and Laurence Jackson, Robin Welsh and Tom Murray, all Scotsmen – while researching an annual report from the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, the world’s inaugural curling organization. Herald writer Doug Gillon then went to the IOC, and an initially positive reply led the Herald to claim Great Britain’s earliest Olympic winter gold medal, even preceding ice hockey in 1936.

We consider curling as an official sport in 1924, read the e-mail reply from Jocelin Sebastiani, a staff member at the IOC’s information management department. It was in demonstration in 1928, but for the International Week of Winter Sports, all the winners of the events are considered as Olympics champions.

In 1926 that “Week of Winter Sports” was re-designated the inaugural Olympic Winter Games, whereupon it was decided to create a separate distinct cycle for winter sports. Only summer games had been held previously, in which skating and ice hockey were included.

Welsh’s son, also named Robin, was aware of the Herald investigation into his father’s Olympic status but passed away on the weekend, aged 86. His son Peter was delighted to hear the news:

My grandfather’s Olympic medal is safe at my home in Yorkshire, he told the Herald. I had been looking forward to telling (my father) about the Olympic gold medal, but never had the chance.

The Royal Club and British Olympic Association were astonished but delighted at the revelation about the Olympic victory. BOA chief executive Simon Clegg told the Herald:

I am fascinated, and amazed that huge authorities on the Olympics have not picked up on this. I’m very grateful to The Herald. The history books will need to be re-written.

Just 16 nations and 258 competitors took part in the 1924 Games, with only three countries competing in curling. Scotland beat Sweden 38-7, and then France 46-4 in outdoor matches lasting 18 ends.

The Herald also reports that one of the Scots who marched in the opening ceremony, a Major D.P. Astley, ended up playing for the Swedes. They finished second after a playoff with France, meaning Astley won an Olympic silver medal. The French won bronze.

1 comment:

Dean Gemmell said...

Like the transparency on the political front. It's always best when audiences know where a blog writer stands.

I don't quite get the uproar on this medal thing. Maybe I'm missing your sarcasm or something, but this seems like a non-story to me.