Curling begins to the sound of bagpipes

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Emanuel Meyer is from Uruguay and currently lives in Milan where he is a business analyst. He was in a car park an hour outside of Turin on Monday playing the bagpipes.

With Meyer were the other bagpipers of Claymore Pipes & Drums, all living in Milan and from such equally accomplished bagpiping nations as Russia and Italy. There was even one from Scotland: Guy Curtois, a former airline pilot in Argentina and now an antiques dealer.

“My title is the Pipe Major, though they call me all sorts of other names,” Curtois said. The band were in the car park at Pinerola, the venue for the curling competitions in the Winter Olympics which staged its first day of events on Monday. Curling originated in Scotland and Claymore Pipes & Drums had been asked to perform on the opening and closing days.

The band were tuning up when I found them, though in truth a bunch of bagpipers could be several mountains away at the bottom of a mineshaft and you could find them while wearing earplugs. And indeed that was how some members have been recruited, Curtois said, as the band attracts attention playing in a park in Milan every Sunday.

Curtois started the band over three years ago after seeing Meyer playing in another group on television. They started with four and are now seven, playing weddings and receptions, and also six public performances last year.

Andrea Cullati, a financial advisor, said he started playing because his uncle loved the sound of bagpipes and brought some back from Scotland with orders that he learn to play. Oh, I asked, so your uncle was from Scotland? No, he said, and offered no further explanation.

Most of the pipers said they were supporting the Great Britain teams at curling. The British women are defending their country’s only gold from the last Olympics in Salt Lake City and the men’s team is fancied to succeed here too.

Meyer, the Uruguyan, professed a measure of impartiality, possibly borne of ignorance as he confessed he was not a winter sports expert. “My country is flat and very warm.”

Meanwhile on the ice both British teams have had two victories though not always in scintillating fashion. Rhona Martin, who skips the women’s team, said on Monday the surface was not to the team’s liking as, bear with me, the ice was not allowing their curling stones to swing.

Perhaps, she suggested, the stones would swing more as the ice, freshly made last week, aged. Such are the nuggets of knowledge the world acquires while glued to such sporting endeavour once every four years.

Martin even admitted that their curling had been ‘boring’. For a slow, tactical sport referred to sometimes as chess on ice, that does beg the question of what would qualify as exciting curling compared with, say, skiing down the entire face of a mountain in under two minutes.

Even the sparse curling cognoscenti on the first day were pretty subdued. A small troupe of Swedes chanted stirringly for a couple of minutes and there was the odd whoop from the American supporters.

Meanwhile Amy Nixon, one member of the Canadian team, blamed food poisoning for her part in the team’s downfall to Sweden. She refused to say what of the region’s myriad gastronomic delights had laid her low, but that she was now on Granola and pieces of apple.

Curlers seal opening win

Click here for Adrian’s other diaries from Turin and interactive galleries of the games .

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