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Curling stones are made from a special type of granite. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The women’s curling round robin is in full swing on Wednesday, with the men later set to travel to the Beijing National Aquatics Centre, colloquially known as the Ice Cube during the Winter Olympics.

But what exactly is curling and why has it become a staple on TV?

What is the curling format? Curling is a team sport — men’s, women’s or mixed — practiced on ice.

Two teams take turns sliding the granite stones across a 150-foot-long, 15-foot-7-inch-wide patch of ice toward a target known as the house.

Traditional curling teams consist of four players, with mixed teams comprising two men and two women or one man and one woman if it is mixed doubles.

In team curling, each player slides two stones in a row, alternating with an opponent, in each round, which is called an end.

When did curling start? Although its exact origins cannot be traced precisely, curling is a sport believed to have originated in the 16th century. Although an exact date cannot be pinpointed, according to the World Curling Federation, the sport was played in its early days on frozen lochs and ponds in northern Europe.

It was not until 1992 that the International Olympic Committee granted medal status to both men’s and women’s curling. It was introduced at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Japan and became a regular inclusion.

What do you need to play curling? The curling stones are made from a special type of granite and weigh nearly 20 kilograms (about 44 pounds).

Each curler has their own brush and a specific type of shoe specialized for the sport. In each pair of shoes, one sole grips the ice, while the other is more slippery – called a slider – allowing players to slide with the stone as they play it.

The brush is used by players to sweep past the stone to warm its path, allowing it to move farther if desired.

How to score points? On each side of the playing surface there is a series of target-like rings – the house. This helps players determine which stones are closest to the center.

Once an innings is over, a team scores a point for each of its stones in or touching the house that are closer to the center than any of the opposing team’s stones.

A curling game is played over 10 ends and the team with the most points wins.

Read more:

Curling: what is it?  How do you play it?

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