Success of Olympic Celebration Tour in Dublin

The Irish Curling Association made a huge step forward in its aim to establish a permanent curling facility in Ireland after the opportunity arose to host two days of come and try sessions at a temporary ice rink in Tallaght, Dublin.

After receiving funding support from the World Curling Federation, the Dublin project was given ‘Olympic Celebration Tour’ status by the WCF. Olympic medallists Anna Sloan and Michael Goodfellow toured schools and helped with the on ice coaching. All part of the WCF’s mission to introduce the sport of curling to new countries and new audiences.

Getting Organised …

An ICA sub-committee of David Whyte, John Burns, Bill Gray, Craig Whyte, Christine Furey and Louise Kerr worked together to get the project off the ground from a starting point of hearing from South Dublin Council that we had the ice for two days in November. By the end of the Irish adventure, 165 people, including wheelchair users, had tried curling with 100% positive feedback.

Reporting Back …

At the heart of the mission to bring his sport to his country, was ICA honorary member John Burns. On his return, he send comprehensive report to the WCF, saying :

“Ireland is an iceless curling nation. Although the Irish Curling Association won a WCF World Seniors Championship in 2012, they did so without having curling ice anywhere in Ireland. All the ICA members are qualified by birth or parentage to play for Ireland but they all learned to curl elsewhere and there are no members living in Ireland at present – getting a permanent ice rink would change that.  Along with the Irish Ice Hockey and Ice Skating bodies, the ICA have been trying to get a permanent rink for many years and we hope that the recent Olympic Celebration Tour has raised the profile of Irish Curling with all the other organisations who can help us achieve a rink. It certainly made a splash on social media.

Dublin often has temporary Christmas ice rinks for skating, and the ICA were offered a two-day slot at South Dublin on Ice at Tallaght Stadium. Stones, brushes, hacks and an Ice King were imported from Scotland. WCF provided an Olympic Celebration Tour with Darrell Ell and Olympians Anna Sloan and Michael Goodfellow. On the Monday and Tuesday there were visits to two Dublin Primary schools (St Kevin’s and St Dominic’s), to Roslyn Park Adult Training Centre and to Dublin High School. One hundred and forty participants had the chance to try Floor Curling. 103 more pupils were able to come and experience curling on real ice, and adult Come and Try sessions brought 50 people – some new to the sport, but some Canadian exiles who had travelled 100 miles from Belfast, Wexford and Cork to join in.

Thursday also had a Wheelchair Curling demonstration in which three wheelchair athletes (two members of the English Wheelchair curling team and a recruited “Come and Try” person) beat three Olympic and Irish international curlers. Paralympics Ireland CEO Miriam Malone said “It was great to see at first hand what could be a new Irish Paralympic Sport – it would give us great potential for development if Ireland get an ice rink.”

Other special guests at the closing Come and Try were South Dublin Mayor Mark Ward, Olympic Federation of Ireland CEO Peter Sherrard, and representatives from Sport Ireland, Snowsports Ireland, and the ice skating and ice hockey federations.

Feedback from the schools was extremely positive. The head teacher of St Dominic’s wrote –

“I absolutely loved the curling event today and the children had a really, really great time. Anna and Michael were superb and I thought they had a really good way with the boys – from the school’s perspective I cannot say how delighted we are when we can put people of such calibre in front of our boys. They will inspire some of them I have no doubt.  

“The staff in school were so impressed with all of the team who called to the school on Tuesday. The common response was what a warm friendly crew you all made and it was a pleasure to have you here – you are so welcome back at any time.”

Quotes from those who attended the Come and Try Sessions included -“I never knew there was curling in Ireland.” / “I’ve watched curling for years but never thought I would get a chance to curl here in Dublin.”/ “As a Canadian living in Ireland I was happy to travel 200 miles to get a chance to curl.” / “I put my free newspaper down to dry the kitchen floor and noticed a news item about this event –     I’m so glad I came up from Wexford.”/That was £$&**%% brilliant!” /“This is a fantastic sport – who do I lobby to get a permanent ice rink here?”

The ICA hopes that a permanent ice rink will happen soon, and if so they will be happy to stage a WCF competition – Dublin could be a new venue for curling in Europe.”

What’s Next ?

Now the ICA committee are looking to the future and to use the success of the two days in Dublin to show the city authorities there is an opportunity to develop ice sports in Ireland, starting with a permanent ice rink.

ICA President David Whyte commented: “As we catch our breath following a positive week in Dublin the question inevitably is what happens next. 

“While we were on the radar of our fellow ice and winter sports and the Olympic Federation through engagement over the years, our association with them will have been further strengthened by actually delivering on the ground something that we have really only been able to present in words up to now on the back of events in earlier years. This has helped us engage with further bodies such as Sport Ireland, South Dublin Council and Paralympic Ireland through the wheelchair involvement in the event. The support from WCF through the Olympic Celebration Tour, Board member presence and the provision of equipment and funding was truly outstanding along with a commitment for ongoing involvement with the right project.

Taking all the above factors into account the event Team and the Committee will now weigh up all the factors and attempt to produce a proactive follow on strategy to complement the Development Plan produced last year. This could include increased engagement with our new and established partners, discussions with the South Dublin on Ice and other seasonal ice providers around replicating this year’s event on a larger scale for a longer time and becoming more familiar with the range of business models for curling rinks and how they operate across the world including the new innovative project in Belgium so that we are in a position to articulate these should an opportunity present itself. Suffice it to say that those involved have been inspired to continue the effort required to achieve the aspiration of permanent curling ice in Ireland “

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