- Greg Wyshynski is ESPN’s senior NHL writer.
Because of malfunctions with its electronic violation-detection technology, curling at the Beijing Olympics is resorting to the honor system.
It’s known as a low-fi sport: rocks sliding down the ice, brooms sweeping in front of them to alter their speed and direction. But curling was given a high-tech upgrade over the last dozen years thanks to Eye on the Hog technology: a sensor system that determines if a stone was released prior to the red “hog line,” ensuring its legality.
Per the World Curling Federation’s rules of curling and competition, a stone must be clearly released from the hand before it reaches the hog line at the delivery end. If the player fails to do so, the stone is immediately removed from play by the delivering team for a violation.
What the Eye on the Hog did was create a circuit between the bare hand of a curler and a magnetic strip under the ice. If the hand is released from the handle before the line, then green lights flash to indicate a legal throw. If any part of the hand is still touching the handle when it crosses the line, red lights will turn on to signal a violation.
The issue at the Beijing Games: getting the stones to operate properly.
According to Team Canada, this system has been used since 2004, but the equipment at the Beijing Games is new. The technical difficulties have impacted the time teams have to throw and have interrupted their routines. The system was activating when the rock is tilted for cleaning. Some curlers have been having trouble getting their rocks to activate.
USA Curling tells ESPN that the batteries within the stones were not staying in place, causing delays in games when a player would try to set the rock while getting ready to throw in the hack. If the handle was unresponsive, they’d have to call an official over to watch the delivery, since the sensors would not correctly indicate if it was a legal throw.
The batteries have now been removed as this was becoming a recurring issue in the tournament.
The decision to scrap the system was relayed by the World Curling Federation this week.
“The Chief Ice Technician and the Technical Delegates have determined that the handles currently in use will remain in place on the stones. However, the electronic surveillance will be disconnected and manual hog line judging will be in effect,” it said.
While it might sound antiquated, the honor system is a hallmark of curling competitions. Head ice technician Hans Wuthrich told Post Media that integrity will be maintained with the spotlight of the Olympics on them.
“They’ll be under every camera in the world. If they’re gonna cheat, they’re gonna cheat themselves,” Wuthrich said.
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