It is commonly likened to shuffleboard on ice. The truth is, Scottish-inspired curling, which Ogden will host in the 2002 Winter Games, is philosophically more akin to bowling.

"We are glad to be part of the Olympics experience, and we see curling as a chance to host a major venue," said Ogdenite Jim Schreiber, director of The Ice Sheet. "But we have a lot of work to do over the next four years to educate the public and to generate the respect the sport deserves."Curling is "a social participation sport," observed Canadian journalist Paul Chapman, who covers the Olympic event for a curling-frenzied Canadian audience. "In fact, that's what curling is all about in Canada. You play a couple of ends (similar to an inning in baseball), then go sit down and drink a little bit, then play a couple more ends, then drink some more."

It's a lunch-pail-packing, common-mankind sport where everyone can play, from little kids to grandparents. Like golf, the skill involved is far more mental than it is physical.

But despite extensive media attention at the 1998 Winter Games - including the fact that Dave Letterman's mother offers commentary from the curling venue - the sport of curling suffers from an inferiority complex.

Ogden officials are certainly conscious of the fact that Americans, particularly those in the West, do not have a clue about curling. There is certainly skepticism among curling aficionados about whether Utah's 2,500-seat facility will sell out during the 2002 curling event.

"I think, I hope, we will have bigger crowds than here (in Ka-rui-za-wa) because we are counting on the Canadians to come down," Schreiber said. "And we are counting on all those displaced curlers in Utah to spread the word."

But the sport faces an uphill battle in Utah. It is not the most exciting sport in the world to watch. The uniforms are bland. Many participants are not the greatest physical specimens.

And curling is just not something you do on a Saturday afternoon in Utah.

In fact, The Ice Sheet will be the only curling sheet in the Rocky Mountain area, and only the third in the entire western United States.

"We have our work cut out for us," Schreiber said, adding the town fathers advocate an aggressive plan designed to involve Utah youths in the sport, to conduct a variety of curling clinics and to open the facility for training to Midwestern clubs and maybe even some from Utah.

The facility could even host competitions to drum up local interest prior to the Games.

"Curling will definitely be higher profile in 2002," he said. "Not just because of the Canadians but because of what we do as a city to promote it."

Patzke was hired by the U.S. Curling Association 18 months ago to promote the sport nationally, and part of that promotion will be to create an awareness of the sport for the 2002 Games. "Everything helps. The Letterman show, the features like this one. The Olympics created a window for people to hear about us, and we'll take it," he said.

Maybe, just maybe, they will create enough of a buzz they can hook some corporate sponsorship (the U.S. curling team has only Land's End as a corporate sponsor) and raise enough money where team members can do serious training. And there is hope that curling championships can land a television contract of some kind.

Part of the strategy for drumming up media attention leading up to the 2002 Games will be to expose people to the U.S. curlers, a campaign that will undoubtedly emphasize the blue-collar appeal of the athletes - a direct contrast to the pampered stars of elite Olympic sports like figure skating and downhill skiing.

"These are regular people who get up every morning and go to work at regular jobs," Schreiber said. "And you won't find any athletes who are more passionate about their sport. Curlers are one big family wherever you go in the world. They are the best people."

In many respects, curling shares a lot in common with Salt Lake City. Just as Salt Lake City is using the Olympics as a means to validate itself as an international city, curling is using the Olympics to validate its existence as a sport.

While curling is little known in the United States - only 15,000 Americans participate, most of them in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan - it's well known in the Canadian heartland where 1.2 million Canucks participate.

Although curling has been an Olympic demonstration sport off and on since 1924, the Winter Games in Nagano are the first time curling has been an official medal sport.