Is it too early to call split a failure?

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:11 AM ET

As you watch the debacle that is the women's world curling championship unfold, one thing comes to mind.

What on Earth were they thinking?

It was a couple of years ago the deep thinkers at the World Curling Federation decided the Roaring Game would be better served by segregating the world championships. You know, boys on one side, girls on the other.

The women immediately raised their eyebrows, realizing their worlds wouldn't get the same attention without the more popular male game to sell along with it.

"I worry about the women's worlds, I really do, about what'll happen when you split it," three-time world champ Joan McCusker told me at the 2003 Canadian women's championship in Kitchener, Ont.

Not even McCusker, though, could have imagined the scene in Paisley, Scotland, this week.

A brutal facility, horrid ice conditions, lack of volunteers, no timing equipment, zero spectator interest -- the list of problems goes on. And it's still early.

It's as if someone told the local organizers two weeks ago that a dozen countries were showing up for a bonspiel.

"It's certainly not easy to hear what's going on," Warren Hansen of the Canadian Curling Association was saying yesterday. "That's not going to do us any good."

Hansen and the CCA, you should know, were all for this arrangement for a couple of reasons, not the least of which was a corporate sponsor's desire to have either a men's or women's world championship in Canada every year.

Splitting the two made that possible -- the men's show is in Victoria, April 2-10.

But it's also led to this, the Parody in Paisley, where Jennifer Jones and the rest of them must feel like the victims of an early April Fool's joke.

Coming off Jones's Shot Heard Round the World and a record-setting Brier, curling had momentum, at least in this country.

Move it to Scotland, the birthplace of the game, no less, and all of a sudden it looks bush-league. To me, at least, it calls into question the very existence of it as an Olympic sport.

If a world championship can be this poorly organized, how much support does it really have, internationally?

"Any of these events going to Europe, it's always a struggle," Hansen said. "It just doesn't have the same interest. And I suppose, to some degree, it's what we might have suspected would be an issue when these championships were split.

"Whether it's the men's or women's worlds, as soon as they go outside of Canada, it's going to be a struggle to make the thing work."

It's a whole different game of rocks here, of course.

Next year's women's worlds are in Grande Prairie, Alta., where Hansen says the 3,500-seat facility is already nearly sold out.

We imagine the icemaker and volunteers will know what they're doing, too.

The men will take their show to the States next year, where Lowell, Mass., will try to prove more than 10 people south of the 49th give a lick.

A year later, the women will go to Japan, where organization shouldn't be a problem. Getting somebody to notice will be another story.

Hansen, though, says he's not ready to admit this whole thing was a mistake. Not yet.

"I suppose after you do it for two or three years, and if it looks like it's not working ... then you always have the option of re-tracking your footsteps," he said. "It's probably going to take a couple of years for this women's world thing to get some legs under it."

At this rate, it never will.

And that's what the suits who run the World Curling Federation should really be taken to task on.

Splitting the two events was one thing.

Allowing the Paisley organizing group to embarrass the game is another, entirely.


Videos

Photos