Brier a fine fit in London

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:52 PM ET

LONDON, Ont. -- It's Tuesday afternoon and Draw 10 at the Brier.

Almost 5,000 people are sitting in the John Labatt Centre.

This is the John Labatt Centre in London, Ont. This isn't Winnipeg, or Regina or Edmonton where curling ranks right up there with the Canadian Football League as a religion.

If you are from the West, this is the dreaded East where major curling events come to die.

It's why Peter Inch had to do a better selling job on the Canadian Curling Association than he does when he peddles his appliances.

The CCA has had plenty of experience with poor Brier outings in the East. When the event was held in Hamilton in 2007, it was an unqualified disaster.

The Brier is at its best as a moneymaker when it is held in arenas that sit 18,000 or more in the West. It packs people in.

Why move an event that guarantees big money to somewhere where there are no guarantees?

But a sport needs to grow, and growing it in only half the country is really no growth at all.

Despite feelings to the contrary, putting the event in London has been a safe bet. It may not be Winnipeg or Edmonton but it's good enough.

Inch, the chair of the event, knows how to sell the product and he knows how to raise money.

London is earning a reputation in the sports world as a great one-off town. It loves single, big events. The city will support just about anything that's a big event.

The city doesn't do very well with anything else other than junior hockey's London Knights, but it likes to feel like it's a big city when these kinds of events come to London.

It also happens to be an ideal place for curling.

There are a number of successful curling clubs in the area. The John Labatt Centre is a nice place as a venue (if you can overlooked the fact it's cold as a witch's stare in it's upper reaches.) It's just big enough for this kind of event and the sightlines are good.

London is a great retirement community so there are plenty of traditional curling fans who have been following the sport for years.

How has London responded over the first four days of this event?

It has responded as expected.

Get the event and they will come.

After all, this town held a successful women's national championship proving that you can sell curling in central Canada.

There were worries as this event drew closer. The ticket sales were slow to start. The economy is still rotten. Let's face it this isn't hockey.

The opening weekend crowds had to be a pleasant surprise. The early day draws are attracting good numbers. If history tells us anything, the crowds will jam the joint come this weekend when the playoffs take place.

You have to like how this whole thing has been handled so far.

"And it's going to ramp up," Inch said. "Our walkup has been great and they've been buying tickets for the weekend."

The event isn't anywhere near finished and Inch is ready to bring it back.

"Four years from now, we are saying 'come on back. London will be looking for you,' " Inch said.

Inch was disappointed he didn't have time to also prepare a bid for the Olympic trials.

"The next time, though, you will probably see London's name on the list to hold the Olympic trials," Inch said.

While there aren't a lot of guarantees about what is going to happen as the Brier draws to a close, there is one that can be made with relative safety. When it comes to an event that is difficult to sell elsewhere it will sell here.


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