The world is coming to Prince George for nine days in March and there’s a volunteer army ready to show them a good time.
In less than two months, 13 teams North America, Europe and Asia will meet at CN Centre for the start of the nine-day 2020 world women's curling championship, March 14-22, and already there is a wait list of volunteers willing to pay the $100 fee to be a part of it all.
Anne Davidson, vice-chair of the host committee, says there are now 391 committed volunteers who have paid the fee. Although there is a wait list there’s a good chance they will be needed for the event.
“We’ve had no problem at all - curling events are lot of fun for volunteers and anyone who has volunteered at our previous event knows that,” said Davidson.
“They’re actually getting a lot in return. They’re getting an invitation to the opening banquet, which is going to have 400 or 500 people; they’ll get their uniform, which is three pieces, and they get to go in the stands and watch the games when they’re not working.”
Davidson also served on the executive committee for the 2000 Scotties Tournament of Hearts Canadian women;s chamionship that was played at CN Centre and she expects the world event will be similar in scale.
“This will be pretty much the same number of teams, the only difference being they’re coming from further away,” said Davidson.
The local organizing committee is pleased with ticket sales so far and Davidson says they are on par with the numbers sold by this time of year for the 2019 men’s world curling championship in Lethbridge, Alta.
The tournament will include Canada, United States, Scotland, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Russia, China and Japan. South Korea and Italy were last two teams to qualify at a last-chance playoff last weekend in Finland.
“You’re in for a great time,” said Curling Canada event manager Terry Morris. “Hopefully this arena will be sold out Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the closing weekend and you’ll see lots of people here for Team Canada games.
Canada’s team will be determined at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Moose Jaw, Sask, Feb. 15-23.
There will be three draws each day of 10-end games. Each team plays 12 round-robin games and the top six teams advance to the playoff round on Saturday, March 21, which includes semifinals in the evening draw. The gold and bronze medal games will be played Sunday, March 22.
TSN will pick one game each draw to televise live and World Curling Television will broadcast one game each draw, which will be available in 50 countries.
“It will be huge exposure, the (City of) Prince George logo will be in the ice on all four sheets,” said Morris. “That exposure is priceless.”
The economic impact of the tournament on local businesses is expected to hit between $5 million and $6 million.
Switzerland captured the title five of the past 10 years. Canada last won it in 2018 in North Bay, Ont., where Jennifer Jones went undefeated, coming on the heels of Rachel Homan’s world title run in 2018. At last year’s championship in Silkeborg, Denmark, Switzerland, skipped by Silvana Tirinzoni, beat Sweden’s Anna Hasselborg 8-7 in an 11-end final. Hasselborg has won all three of the Pinty’s Grand Slam events this season.
Morris says the calibre of women’s curling outside of Canada has increased significantly since Kelley Law and her Richmond rink won the Scotties in 2000 in Prince George and went on to claim the world title that year in Glasgow, Scotland.
“In 2000, Canada had the best team in the world,” said Morris, “In 2019, these European teams and Asia Pacific teams are climbing up to level Canada’s at and that’s why you’re seeing such good competition and why you’re seeing these countries participate in the Olympics.”
The legacy of hosting the world championship is already beginning. An introductory learn-to-curl program sponsored by Curling Canada and UNBC Athletics will reach 16 schools and 1,400 students in grades 4-7, giving each participating student a chance to try floor curling in a one-hour session in their school gyms taught by Curl BC-certified club coaches. Each student will receive two tickets to attend one of the daytime draws during the championship, which happens during the spring break holiday.
“We’re hoping that legacy of being in the schools rubs off on the Prince George Golf and Curling Club and their membership,” said Morris. “Historically, we’ve seen that when a major curling event is in town, the curling club sees a peak in their membership the following year.”