Does curling require skill? And other Vancouver Olympics questions answered.

Scenes from the Olympics.
Feb. 16 2010 6:34 PM

Vancouver Olympics FAQ

Why does women's luge start lower than men's? Is the U.S. snowboarding team wearing jeans? Does curling require actual skill?

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Does curling require any athletic skill?

Yes: balance. The game starts with a member from one team "delivering the rock," or sliding the 42-lb. granite stone across the ice toward the "button"—a circle at the other end of the ice 150 feet away—while skating forward in a low squatting-type position. This "delivery" requires extreme precision, so staying upright without wobbling is important. (Watch the game being played here.)

Upper and lower body strength are key as well, both for the delivery and for the "sweeping." As the stone slides, two players brush in front of it in order to control its speed and its spin, or curl, directing it toward the button. Vigorous sweeping requires some stamina over the course of a typical three-hour match.

Just as important as physical ability is mental dexterity. Curling has been compared to chess, since teammates must try to anticipate their opponents' next several moves.

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What is that strange bouquet they hand out to the Olympians?

A combination of spider chrysanthemums, hypericum berries, and aspidistra leaves. The design panel's original plan was to present bouquets composed entirely of plants native to British Columbia. But they nixed early concepts featuring native salal and boxwood, as well as hydrangeas, tulips, irises, and dianthus. They also vetoed pussywillow because a flying bouquet could poke someone in the eye. After going through 23 samples of various color combinations, the design panel decided on an all-green bouquet tied with a blue bow. A local florist is putting together a total of 1,800 bouquets.

How do sportscasters know so much about the really obscure sports? Do they follow them all year?

No. NBC has a team of researchers that gathers information about all the sports and helps prepare the producers and commentators for the games. That might mean briefing them on the rules of a particular sport, its history, or its quirky trivia. Past Olympics researchers include Dick Ebersol and Jeff Zucker. For added authority, the network gets former Olympians to talk about their sports. For example, Jonny Moseley will talk skiing, while Duncan Kennedy will discuss luge.

Got a question about today's news? Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Scottie Bibb of U.S. Figure Skating, Sandy Caligiore of the United States Luge Association, and Terry Kolesar of the United States Curling Association.