Safety fears put curling match on ice

Plans to stage an outdoor curling competition for the first time in 30 years were scrapped today because of safety concerns.

Organisers hoped that The Grand Match would go ahead on a frozen loch for the first time since 1979 thanks to the longest cold snap in decades.

But the competition was cancelled because emergency services said it was not possible to address all the health and safety issues in the time available.

Event organisers spoke of their disappointment that the "spectacle" would not go ahead but said they would continue to look at ways of holding the rare competition in future.

The Grand Match, also known as the Bonspiel, was first held in 1837 and traditionally pitches the north and south of Scotland against each other.

The competition has only been held three times since 1945 because it has not been cold enough for thick ice to form on Scotland's lochs.

But weeks of freezing weather across the country raised hopes that the minimum 7in of ice needed for the game to go ahead would form on the Lake of Menteith, near Stirling.

However after a meeting today, officials at the Royal Caledonian Curling Club decided not to hold the match, which was expected to attract 2,500 curlers and thousands more spectators if it had gone ahead.

The chief executive of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority, Fiona Logan, said in a statement: "It is with great disappointment that the Royal Caledonian Curling Club has made the decision not to hold the proposed Grand Match on the Lake of Menteith in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

"Following extensive discussions with a wide variety of interested parties including Central Scotland Police, the Fire and Rescue Service, Scottish Ambulance Service, Stirling Council and the National Park Authority, it has not proved possible to address all health and safety concerns and receive full backing of the emergency services within the timescales involved.

"Without achieving this it would be impossible to gain the necessary insurance to hold the event."

She said "every possible effort" was made to facilitate the curling match but public safety had to come first.

"All parties involved will continue to investigate options available to organise such an event at some point in the future and ensure that this iconic spectacle is made possible for the curlers' and public's safe enjoyment."

Although the Lake of Menteith was identified as the most likely venue for this year's event, previous matches have been held on Loch Leven and lochs in Penicuik, Linlithgow and Carsebreck, near Blackford.

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