THEY were jubilant scenes in Beijing as Great Britain’s Olympic gold medal winners celebrated their victory with the images beamed across the globe.

The triumph of both the gold winning female team lead by Eve Muirhead and Bruce Mouat’s men’s silver medal winners put the sport of curling, with its foundations and roots firmly in Scotland, on the world stage.

It's being suggested curling existed in Scotland in the early 16th century after a curling stone inscribed with the date 1511 was found, along with another bearing the date 155, when an old pond was drained at Dunblane.

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However, as the Olympic glory has sparked a sudden interest in the sport with ice rinks trying to keep up with the demand for bookings as people have been inspired to have a go themselves, there are also more pressing issues at home which could affect the grassroots of the sport and finding those future medal winners.

While Scotland is well-served with ice rinks suitable for curling, there are just over 20 of them, there is a gap in facilities for the country’s largest city.

Great Britains Eve Muirhead, Vicky Wright, Hailey Duff and Jennifer Dodds celebrates winning gold in the Womens Gold Medal Game.

Great Britain's Eve Muirhead, Vicky Wright, Hailey Duff and Jennifer Dodds celebrates winning gold in the Women's Gold Medal Game.

Glasgow no longer has its own ice rink and while curlers had been training and competing at the nearby Braehead Arena, it closed its doors in March 2020 and never reopened. And it’s not only access to curling rinks affecting the sport, ice rink operators are fearful of how the energy price hike might affect them. Some are likely to be affected by soaring energy bills as they maintain ice conditions in their venues.

And off the back of the boom in curling interest, the charity formed to lead the campaign for the return of a Glasgow ice rink is ready to take their fight forward.

It comes at a time when Perth and Kinross Council this week made a financial commitment to delivering Perth’s new pool and ice rink.

The £90 million facility – which will replace Perth Leisure Pool and Dewars Centre – is scheduled to open in 2027/28. Team GB women's team members Eve Muirhead and Mili Smith trained at the Perth rink in the past.

Great Britains Eve Muirhead with an Olympic Gold Medal.

Great Britain's Eve Muirhead with an Olympic Gold Medal.

With little time to get over jet lag following his return from Beijing Team GB’s men’s curling coach Alan Hannah knows only too well how important this welcome spotlight on the sport is.

As well as leading the men’s team to silver, he is also the chairman of the Glasgow Ice Centre which formed as a campaign when they became aware that the facilities at Braehead were set to close.

“We set up the charity with the purpose of trying to find a new home for curling in Glasgow, we set up a feasibility study and over a period of time we have been in discussions with the city council and Glasgow Life which runs sport under culture and leisure, but not really anything has happened there. We appreciate they are pretty much in turmoil themselves off the back of Covid,” said Mr Hannah.

“Our feasibility study quite clearly demonstrated that we needed to be multi-use, have skating function as well as curling and probably some kind of ice hockey. Off the back of the medals we are now intending to pick this up again and bang the drum.”

Team GB mens curling silver medallists Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Ross Whyte, Hammy McMillan and Bruce Mouat.

Team GB men's curling silver medallists Grant Hardie, Bobby Lammie, Ross Whyte, Hammy McMillan and Bruce Mouat.

Scottish Curling has seen a rise in demand for places on its introductory programme Try Curling and while Glasgow is suffering from a lack of facilities, a facility on the east coast, Curl Edinburgh has been inundated with inquiries with people interested in taking to the ice.

Mr Hannah said: "Facilities is one of the major issues and challenges we have not just in Scotland in England as well. They have got a bigger challenge if they are trying to open up to a new audience. Venues are a hot topic and for us we are looking at a 30-minute drive distance, a 1.2million catchment area of Glasgow and we don’t have our own ice facility. The council is acutely aware of that and for some time they have prided themselves on being a destination with sporting venues built off the back of the Commonwealth Games and the one glaring gap they have in their sporting portfolio is that they don’t have an ice facility.”

While Mr Hannah operates at elite level, the campaign recognises how important the community element is.

He added: "I am acutely aware that the way to present these things is very much about it being central to a community and that it is a community based facility that has leverage benefits about health and wellbeing access to sport and participation.

“We would be looking to offer of public skating and ice hockey and there would be a dedicated to curling. The skating part is hugely important to give opportunities to access something that has a health and wellbeing aspect. From the curling aspect we promote it as a sport that is accessible to anyone from eight years old to 80-year-old.”

Mr Hannah, who has been coaching Bruce Mouat’s men’s team for five years, said they had high hopes heading to Beijing and while there was slight disappointment they didn’t get gold in the final against Sweden he believes the team can go on to the next winter games.

“I’m sure in the days and weeks ahead all of us will be immensely proud of coming home with the silver medal. We came home to Edinburgh with huge support with lots of messages from people sending best wishes,” added Mr Hannah. “If they want to go again they could be in another Olympic final they are of that high a quality.”

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Maggie Wilson, head of development for Scottish Curling, said the Olympics is the pinnacle of publicity for the sport for them adding: “we see it as a two-week advert on prime-time TV and we were ready to capitalise on that.

“We saw spikes on our website every time we’ve been given a mention by the commentators in Beijing.

“We have some great teams coming through our curling academy programme and I’m not too worried about our future medals success as I think we have got the programme there to allow for that. What we need mass participation, getting people through the doors. The last thing we want is for this to become a niche sport that is only aimed at medals. This is a sport that can be played in every local area and with a growth in that and the number of schools and juniors playing we are going to see when you have the numbers the medals take care of themselves.”

Gold medal winner Hailey Duff playing when she was a youngster

Gold medal winner Hailey Duff playing when she was a youngster

It was the Forfar rink which Beijing gold medal winner Hailey Duff was first introduced to curling at the age of eight-years-old.

Scottish Ice Rink Association Mike Ferguson, who runs Forfar Indoor Sports and remembers her first time on the ice, says it’s at grassroots level in communities where there can be greater impact, but there is a major challenge facing ice rink operators.

“Ice rinks have been inundated with requests on the back of the Olympics with a lot of people wanting to try beginners sessions,” said Mr Ferguson, who is also the vice-chairman of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club.

“It’s a welcome positive but for ice rink operators we could do with support to help one of the biggest issues we face and that is rising energy costs. Many operators will be due to renegotiate their deals and some will be facing in excess of £50,000 with increases of 40 or 50 per cent. It is a massive black cloud hanging over the industry.

“That’s why we want to see people coming into their local facilities. Curling is a sport which Scotland excels at but it’s curling at grassroots level, the way Hailey Duff, came through in her local community, that can make a difference.”

A Glasgow City Council spokesman said: “Together with Glasgow Life, Glasgow City Council has had constructive conversations with Glasgow Ice Centre and will continue to discuss their aspirations to develop a multi-sport ice facility in the city.”