There are a lot of moving pieces in curling, but usually not in a logistically complicated way: athletes merely need a lane of ice, a couple of brushes and a set of granite stones to compete.
But at the 2022 Winter Olympics, which kicked off with a dazzling opening ceremony that spotlighted China’s technological prowess, issues with the battery compartment inside curling stones led organizers on Monday to announce that the electronic observation system in the rock handles would be disabled for the remainder of the Games.
Curling competition is now operating on the honor system.
The stones have a sensor embedded in their handle that is designed to detect when a competitor releases it, which they must do before the “hog line.” Failure to release before the line is a violation and the stone is removed from play. A green light indicates a legal throw and a red light means the hand was still touching the handle when it crossed the line.
In Beijing, the stones haven’t been operating properly.
Throughout the first week of competitions, curlers reported issues with the sensors not activating at the beginning of play and at times requiring an umpire to stand at the hog line to manually review a release. The technical difficulties have impacted the game time teams have to throw and interrupted the flow.
“It’s a massive distraction,” Canadian skip Jennifer Jones told The Toronto Star. “You lose lots of time because you have to reset and then your clock runs. So you lose time on top of having to go through your whole routine again.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what was causing the battery stability issue, but the World Curling Federation announced Monday the decision to scrap the system.
“The electronic surveillance will be disconnected and manual hog line judging will be in effect,” a statement on the WCF’s website read.
This isn’t the first time the electronic hog line observation system has been suspended. At the European Curling Championships in Norway this past November, the system was also shut off due to issues with the battery packs in the handles, according to the federation.