"You are truly Olympic," says IOC President as WCF marks 50 years

  • Thomas Bach delivers opening stone in Basel Photo: WCF / Richard Gray

All World Curling Championship events are important, but there was something special about the week of the 2016 World Men's Curling Championship in Basel, Switzerland (2-10 April 2016).

On the eve of the event, the World Curling Federation (WCF) started the celebration of the organisation's 50th year with a commemorative banquet, and Dr Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee, was the guest of honour, accompanied by his wife Claudia. He then went on to deliver the ceremonial first stone for the Championship – played directly onto the button, of course.

WCF writer, Mike Haggerty, caught up with him during his visit...

"I want to say how much we appreciate what curling is doing – in your ambitions you are truly Olympic and your sport has a great reputation in and around the Olympic family," Bach said.

This was one of the key messages delivered by Dr Bach to his audience of WCF members, National Federation representatives and special guests when he spoke at the banquet. During his visit, he also noted that curling is growing "because of the great work being carried out in making the sport more popular and getting closer to athletes – the WCF can be proud of these great achievements."

He added, "I think curling reflects the Olympic values very well. It's a sport that's known for its fair play, for the respect of the competitors, and for respect of the rules. It brings a lot with regard to gender equality, so we are really happy to have curling in the Olympic programme."

During his speech he noted that curling had been on the programme of the first Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix, France in 1924, but that it was not until the 1998 Olympic Winter Games of Nagano, Japan when modern-day curling came onto the programme. He diplomatically called the decades between appearances "a little pause" but he then added, "this renewal was a fantastic development".

He spoke further about his personal journey with curling, saying, "my first experience with curling was in 1998 in Nagano when I saw it and followed it for the first time – since then I've been following curling and I am not surprised any more about how popular it is. My first experience with curling's popularity was in Salt Lake City in 2002. When we first saw the [television viewing] figures there at the time, we were really surprised. Since then we have seen a good and steady growth."

While reflecting on curling's success, Dr Bach also took time to lay down some challenges for the future.

"I think that curling should continue its effort to become more international, and to make even people more familiar with the sport – not just those who know it already, but also people who are new to the sport."

"We see that the WCF is doing a lot with regard to broadcasting and I think that the IOC's new Olympic Channel will help a lot in this respect, not just to address those who are already curling fans but also the ones who are potentially curling fans. I think the Olympic channel and the fact that we have the Olympic Games in China offer great opportunities for curling. At the 2022 Games in Beijing, curling will have a big chance to build on a very solid foundation."

He summarised this by saying, "I think now is the time for curling to make another big leap forward with the Olympic Channel and the great potential of China."

In conclusion, Dr Bach wished the World Championships competitors well and said more generally, "I hope the curling family will continue to expand quickly, making use of the great potential this sport has. My wish is that curling continues in such a great way to support the Olympic values and the values of sport."

In June 2015 Mixed Doubles Curling was accepted as a Olympic Winter Games medal discipline. It will make its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang, South Korea between 9 and 25 February 2018. The first World Mixed Doubles Curling Championship where Olympic qualification points are on offer begins, on Saturday (16 April) in Karlstad, Sweden.

For more on curling at the Olympics visit, www.worldcurling.org/pyeongchang-2018-olympic-winter-games

For more on the World Mixed Curling Championship 2016 visit, www.worldcurling.org/wmdcc2016

For more on the World Men’s Curling Championship 2016 visit, www.worldcurling.org/wmcc2016