Just in case the sweeping and the shouting and the chess-like strategy isn’t enough to draw in the fans at the Olympics, the Norwegian curling team is again calling on its secret weapon.
For the third straight Winter Games, the men’s team from Norway will be shaking up the staid, 600-year-old sport by wearing brightly colored trousers in competition. Among the uniforms for Pyeongchang unveiled on Tuesday is one that makes them look like they were the losing team in a patriotic paintball outing.
“Curling is kind of similar to golf, very traditional,” Norwegian second Christoffer Svae said in a telephone interview from New York, where the team — well, mostly the pants — was doing a media blitz. “When we started playing in colored pants, it was breaking tradition. It was turning heads, for sure.”
The pants first attracted attention at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, where they debuted as a red, white and blue argyle in a field filled with black or other dark trousers. They — the pants, not the curlers — soon had a Facebook page that now has nearly 500,000 followers and its own email address to field media inquiries.
Back then, the team just ordered and paid for the pants off the rack, but it soon became a sponsorship opportunity. Loudmouth, which had mostly marketed toward golfers, signed on for the Sochi Games and designed pants just for the team, including a pattern featuring the Norwegian flag and another outfit with high socks and knickers.
The company, which declined through a spokeswoman to comment on the value of the deal, has also backed an American beach volleyball team at the London Olympics, golfer John Daly and Peter “Snakebite” Wright, the No. 2 darts player in the world.
But its biggest splash has come with the Norwegian curlers, and it is backing them again in Pyeongchang. Svae said they will have 12 different outfits — enough to get them through the medal round — and some cash to pay for travel and other expenses.
In a niche, largely self-funded sport like curling, that comes in handy.
“It’s huge,” Svae said. “We get funding from Loudmouth to cover travel expenses, and also the fame we get from the Loudmouth clothes get us other sponsors in Norway, because they want to be associated with the brand we’ve made.”
In addition to Svae, the team includes lead Haavard Vad Petersson, vice-skip Torger Nergaard and skip Thomas Ulsrud. They will be attending their third straight Olympics, having won a silver medal in Vancouver. (Nergaard won gold as part of a different foursome in 2002).
As the idea man behind the pants phenomenon, Svae said there is more to it than just free publicity. Curlers understand that the gimmicks might call attention to their sport, but they hope that people who tune in for the pants will take a liking to it.
“I think all curlers are eager to promote the sport,” he said.