Saudi curling update
Back in February I reported on the event when we took 12 people for a friendly curling match in Qatar. It was the very first recorded curling game in the Middle East. See blog http://www.afyferail.uk/blog/curling-in-the-middle-east for details. The item finished by outlining what steps we would have to take to get curling established in Saudi Arabia.
Well, we have been busy. Our Treasurer, who is a native Saudi (but discovered curling when he was a student in Canada) has been trying to break through the wall of impenetrability that surrounds some of the administrative and sports establishments in Riyadh. We had been trying for months to find the right person in the General Authority for Sports (GAS) who could help us. Likewise with the National Olympic Committee (NOC). We had our breakthrough after the World Seniors in Lethbridge in April. Whilst there I had asked for a meeting with the World Curling Federation and had been able to explain what we were trying to do in Saudi to the WCF President Kate Caithness. She said that she knew the International Olympic Committee representative who covered the Middle east area, and through them we were able to get the right name at the Saudi NOC, and equally importantly, an introduction.
So, after Ramadan the Treasurer and I found ourselves giving a presentation to the Saudi NOC explaining what curling was, how it was an Olympic sport and how we could help the Saudis get on the road to, perhaps, one day competing at world or Olympic level. Saudi Arabia, perhaps unsurprisingly has never participated in a Winter games. We explained that we were not there seeking funding but sought their help in establishing the sport here and smoothing our path in getting the necessary permissions. Ideally they could approve of what we intended to do, and give us a Letter of Recognition (LoR). Well, the NOC said they were interested and were willing to support us to a limited extent but had to stop short of a LoR as under Saudi regulations this meant that they would have to provide substantial financial backing, and their finances were already fixed for this (summer) Olympic cycle. We asked what we would need to do to get LoR status, and they said they would have to think about the details, but said that it would at least include getting membership (of Saudis) to a certain level (not yet defined), establishing the sport in different cities in the Kingdom and organising national championships. So, something to aim for, and not rejected out of hand!
Oh, and by the way, we were not to call ourselves the Saudi Arabian Curling Association as this implied we had national accreditation, that would have to wait until we have a LoR. We asked what would be an appropriate title for a sport governing body for the country, and after discussion we agreed on the Kingdom Curling Association. And we did not need permission from the GAS as they were not the appropriate body (!?). We would need to get registered with the Riyadh Chamber of Commerce and that would then allow us to apply for a bank account and insurance etc.
Armed with this positive outcome, we examined the exact criteria for WCF membership, and it appeared that we could apply for Conditional Membership. This is the first rung on the journey to full membership, and even if so granted we would not be able to enter a team into international competitions, but we would qualify for funding support from the WCF’s Development Assistance Programme. So, we applied for Conditional Membership and were advised that this would be considered by the WCF Board at their Annual Congress in mid-September. On 18th September we were advised that the application had been approved and Saudi Arabia was now the 60th registered curling nation in the world.
We are now able to apply for DAP funding and are looking at curling suppliers with a starter shopping list that will include 16 stones, brushes, hacks, slippy soles and a pebbler, as a minimum. As you can imagine these are expensive items, even if we obtain second-hand stones! And shipping will be costly too, as a minimum order will be in the region of 400-500kg. There will also be import tax of 5% to pay, so we have some serious fundraising to do, even though the DAP will help. We would love to get the stones bought and here before the end of December.
If you, dear reader, think that you can help in any way, please let me know. Is your local ice-rink disposing of old worn stones? Do you have any contacts or influence with anybody that has an interest in Saudi Arabia? Are you an airline freight manager or in the international logistics industry? Is your company active in the middle east and have a marketing budget? Or, do you want to be associated with a project that has every chance of succeeding, at grassroots level at least? You never know, you might get a mention in the history of one of the world’s expanding sports!