Winter Olympic curling qualifier drops sex toy adverts after US blackout

Adverts for a sex toy website that featured at a Winter Olympics curling qualifying tournament will be removed from the ice after they led to a US livestream blackout.

Erotic website EasyToys and the World Curling Federation (WCF) said on Friday that they have reached a deal to resume live streaming to the US and Japan, with the ads replaced by the statement “#equalityforall.” Broadcasters in both nations had decided that references to the company were too racy for the intended audience.

“During an Olympic qualifying tournament, it must of course be about the sport and not about the sponsor,” Eric Idema, CEO of EasyToys’ parent company EDC, said in a statement. “Curling also deserves that, as a sport that is one of the few mixed sports that is way ahead of its time. In fact, just like us.”

The tournament began Sunday with mixed doubles, but American fans were unable to watch their local livestream due to what the WCF called “an ongoing sponsor rights issue”. An international livestream was still available, where viewers could see a “safe for work” EasyToys logo on the ice and around the rink.

The company’s name was also embedded in the hog line, which determines where curlers must release the stone. When the event resumes on Sunday, “almost all” logos will be removed with the hashtag on the ice instead – although the hog lines will remain “EasyToys pink”.

“We hoped our visibility would contribute to breaking the taboo that still rests in many countries on both sexuality and on our industry,” Idema said. “It is unfortunate that adjustments are now needed to get the sport to the fans.”

The event in Leeuwarden, about 90 minutes north of Amsterdam, is a last-chance qualifier for the 2022 Games. Two teams in mixed doubles and three each in men’s and women’s doubles can claim the last remaining spots in Beijing. The US pair of Chris Plys and Vicky Persinger have qualified in mixed doubles.

“EasyToys and the World Curling Federation entered a sponsorship contract for this event in good faith, based around the shared values of equality and respect for everyone,” the WCF said in a statement.

“The legal guidelines, along with social norms that influence broadcast policies, have proved to be a complicated barrier to showcasing this championship. This action has been taken to avoid any further distractions to our athletes as they seek to achieve their dreams of reaching the pinnacle of our sport.”