Yichun Curling: playoffs approach

by Molly Bonner [click images to increase size]

China vs Canada (photo by Chinese Curling Association)

YICHUN, China – This trip certainly has two sides to it. Initially, we were tourists in an overwhelmingly chaotic (controlled, however) city, enjoying many historic sights and structures. Now, we are in the full curling swing of competition, located in a much smaller, quieter (and colder!) town.

It seems so long ago that we were atop the Great Wall of China admiring all of the manpower that went into constructing, in ancient times, what is truly a world wonder.
The Opening Ceremonies – where to begin? There were speeches, and more speeches, and the athletes weren’t announced and didn’t have to do a thing! We aren’t complaining, by the way – many enjoyed this, for a change.
And so, it’s become clear that dignitaries are certainly at the forefront of this event; understandably, given the situation and pressure to make Yichun a “curling capital” of China (see the video here) and the resulting heavy political involvement and media presence.
All of the athletes were lined up in front of the stage to listen to the speeches by dignitaries at the Opening Ceremony; however shortly thereafter, swarms of journalists from local and nationwide media blocked our view to the speakers on stage!

Our dining building in Yichun

We are quite lucky to be staying in the best hotel in Yichun – the Forest Capital Hotel. This hotel is where any and probably all foreign diplomats stay when they’re in town.

As I mentioned before, the city is reminiscent of a plantation: quite a large estate and multiple buildings spanning the land. In the largest and perhaps most grand building on the estate, all those involved with the event gather for three meals a day.
When entering the dining hall you can see which teams have opted to head to the supermarket (fourth floor of the department store) for some staple items: yogurt, fruit, wheat bread, oatmeal, etc.
The buffet of food we are presented with at each meal is a wide variety of traditional Chinese dishes, and most of us have found one or two dishes that we really enjoy. At this point, wowever, many of the athletes are looking forward to the “home cooking” that awaits us.

Skipper Patti at the market

We asked our two translators (somewhat jokingly, but with extreme optimism) when the dessert would be served.  Thoughts of chocolate, ice cream, cookies, and cheesecake danced in our heads. Lily informed us that fruit is their dessert; this may explain some cross-cultural physique differences.

Thank goodness the Swiss team is here and handing out chocolates from the Swiss Curling Association’s sponsor, Wernli!)
One item of supreme interest and conversation between many of the competitors is government involvement.
Exhibit A: Heat. As I awoke after our first night’s “rest” in Yichun I quickly realized that heat must be a “hot” commodity. After further discussion, we discovered that heat output is controlled, in fact, by the government! Wow! Which explains the cold living quarters we have become accustomed to. There are no thermostats.
Exhibit B: Internet access. Who would have thought that USA Curling’s website would be regarded as something that must be regulated? Who would anticipate that The Curling News Blog would be difficult to view? (WHAAT?! –Ed.)  Facebook, Twitter, many U.S. news-related sites, and other social or sharing types of sites are blocked. Foreign athletes are all noticing that sites they typically access are unaccessible here due to government controls.

My hotel room

On that note, friends and fans of other teams (Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark and Canada) can stay tuned for messages from your country’s players coming soon… right here, on this blog!

Yichun is preparing for the annual Winter Carnival, and the nearby park has many artists working on their ice sculptures on a daily basis. We hope some are finished in time for us to  view before we depart the city!
We were looking forward to a night on the town with Team Canada’s Shannon Kleibrink as a brewery tour and tasting had been planned for us.  However, due to the cold temperatures, the pipes are frozen… making the brewery neither tourable nor tastable. On the bright side, you can purchase eight 20-ounce bottles of good beer for only three U.S. dollars. Incredible!
Regarding the competition: the frontrunners right now are China, Denmark, and Sweden who have just one loss each. I speak from experience when I say that you certainly don’t want to let the Swedish ladies get the lead on you in a game… that hit weight is both accurate and deadly!
It’s looking like it will be a tight race for the fourth spot in the playoffs; potentially, three losses might be enough to earn a spot. More game-specific info is forthcoming as the round robin portion of the event comes to a close and playoff time begins. As we will not, unfortunately, be making the playoffs, I will have a bit more time to recap the on-ice action for you.
Thanks for reading, and do pass along the The Curling News web URL to friends and fans!
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  1. PATT Smith Said,

    December 18, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

    Really enjoying your blog. Most informative. Keep up the good work!

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    Rating: 5.0/5 (2 votes cast)
  2. Mj Said,

    December 18, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

    Very good blog!!

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    Rating: 4.0/5 (1 vote cast)

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