Roarin' game on a big-money roll

CON GRIWKOWSKY -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:58 AM ET

GRANDE PRAIRIE -- Curling's Olympic exposure is starting to pay huge dividends.

The World Curling Federation expects a $12-million share of marketing and television ratings from Turin, much of which will be invested into world-wide television production.

That share is up from $4 million in Nagano and $8.3 million in Salt Lake City.

And, the fact that curling ratings peaked at an incredible 12 million in Japan has drawn the attention of the NHK network.

That's all good news for the WCF, which awarded next year's world women's championship to Aomore, Japan.

"Television is a prime mover and shaker for getting curling accepted around the world,'' said Moncton's Les Harrison, who's taking over the WCF presidency on April 5.

"After they've seen the Olympics, we can't let them go into a four-year hiatus and not see it on television.''

The WCF continues to try and break into major network coverage, and there are signs it's about to happen.

ESPN is here, taping Debbie McCormick's progress for a show to be aired later this week.

"In Nagano, CBS had the contract and they wouldn't do anything,'' Harrison said.

"At Salt Lake, NBC agreed to take some and put it on their smaller networks, and that worked very well.

''Now, they're going into some coverage on ESPN.

''Six years ago, when we called NBC, they didn't even want to talk to us about anything outside of the Olympic Games.

"Now, they're coming to us. It's a beginning and it's developing similar to Canadian coverage.''

Other than David Letterman's mother, who was assigned curling as a joke, more people are watching in the lucrative American market.

"It was reported to us George W. Bush watched two ends of curling while flying across the U.S. in Air Force One,'' said Harrison.

"It shows the interest.

''There's tremendous growth potential in the U.S.''


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