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What Is Broomgate? A New Podcast Explores the Scandal That Rocked Curling

The CBC and USG Audio podcast is hosted by semi-professional curler and comedian John Cullen.

By Cydney Contreras
Broomgate: A Curling Scandal key art

If you’ve flipped through NBC’s coverage of recent Winter Olympics, you may well have come across an unusual sight: people sliding large rocks across the ice, yelling and shouting as the projectiles rumble toward their frozen targets. The competition is known as curling, and while it wouldn’t be considered a tentpole of the mainstream sports scene, it definitely has its fans. 

And just about anything else these days, it also has its controversies. Broomgate, which threatened to forever change the sport, is one such example.

Now, nearly 10 years after the controversy first ignited, semi-professional curler and comedian John Cullen is diving deep into the winter sport for the upcoming podcast Broomgate: A Curling Scandal.

(Listen to the Broomgate trailer.)

"I am so excited for this project to finally come to life,” said Cullen, who also serves as an executive producer, in a press release. “When I first came up with the idea over two years ago, I had no idea that I would be able to work with such an unbelievable team to create something truly wonderful and a genuine first in the curling space. Part of the reason behind this specific idea was to bring a curling story to a mainstream audience, and I think this is the perfect story to do that with." 

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Throughout the series, Cullen will explore the intricacies of curling and why the broom caused such division in the sporting community he's grown to love. "There's something for everyone: human drama, athletic excellence, and the perseverance of a community that had to wrestle with modernity in a way it never had before," according to Cullen. 

"I think curling is the greatest sport in the world and I hope everyone who listens enjoys a glimpse into our beautiful little world," Cullen continued. 

What is curling?

Curling is a sport in which two teams (usually of four players, but there are doubles competitions as well) alternate turns sliding big hunks of granite called the "throwing rocks," across a sheet of ice toward a target, known as the "house." The aim is to get those throwing rocks closest to the center of the target, or "pebble" The throwing rocks range between 38 and 44 pounds each and are pushed forward by the thrower. In the four-person variation, two team members designated as the "sweepers" then use brooms to sweep the surface and create a smoother path for the stones, while the fourth member of the team, known as the "skip" guides their actions.  

This sounds relatively easy until you consider that the ice has been sprayed with water droplets, creating a rough texture. 

the US Olympic Team Curling Trials at Baxter Arena in 20121

What is broomgate?

The controversy kicked off when new and improved brooms were introduced in the world of curling, as reported by the CBC in 2015. 

Traditionally, curling brooms sweep the ice, but the updated versions introduced at the time had more of a scraping or smoothing effect. This, detractors said, gave teams an unfair advantage in the competition since it gave the sweepers more control over the rock. 

"It took a lot of the skill away from the throwers and put it in the hands of the sweepers and the person that was calling the sweep," Brad Gushue, a Canadian curler and 2006 Olympic gold medal winner, said to NPR. " And really it's just allowed top players too much control to the point where it was actually difficult to miss some shots on line." 

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Cullen will go into further detail in Broomgate, starting with the new tech's debut in South Korea and ending in the current times. 

And though this saga may seem low-stakes, podcast participants explain how the ordeal turned "toxic."   

"People are still so reluctant to talk about it. The full story has never been told and I'm here to tell it," Cullen says in the trailer. 

Broomgate is produced by Kelly & Kelly and Pacific Electric for CBC and USG Audio, a division of Universal Studio Group. The executive producers are Josh Bloch (USG Audio), Mike Falbo, Ed Helms and Brett Harris (Pacific Electric), Chris Kelly, Lauren Bercovitch and Pat Kelly (Kelly & Kelly), Chris Oke and Cesil Fernandes (CBC), and John Cullen.

Broomgate episodes 1 and 2 publish on May 6, 2024 on CBC Listen and everywhere podcasts are available, with new episodes released weekly after that. 

And don't forget to dive into NBC's coverage of the 2024 Paris Olympics, beginning July 26 with the Opening Ceremony.

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