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Curling could be the hottest thing on ice

/ Source: CNBC

So many Olympic athletes are taking it off these days you'd think it was a medal sport.

From being bundled up on the ice in a quest for gold, some female curlers are taking it off in the name of exposure -- presumably theirs and in the name of their sport -– for a calendar hot enough to get a plug from Playboy.

The brainchild behind the curling calendar is a photographer who says she wanted to change what you think of curling and its competitors. They're gifted athletes with the bodies to match.

Is there any economic benefit to all this? Yes, says sports marketing expert Marc Ganis. “When the calendars are sold they're sold typically as a fundraising tool. Obviously if they sell, funds have been raised for their team or for their sport, so there is an economic benefit,” Ganis says

These curling women are not the first female athletes to get naked -- or nearly naked -- for a calendar or commercial magazine

Remember the Brandi Chastain moment at the 1999 Women's World Cup? She celebrated -- spontaneously she says -- by ripping off her game shirt. Underneath, a black Nike sports bra. Chastain took it a step further in Gear magazine, losing the shirt and bra altogether. That year, People magazine named her one of the 20 most intriguing people of the year.

“I believe if you're an athlete who's not that great , say Anna Kournikova, at her particular sport, then it cheapens the sport to use these methods in order to market yourself,” says Branden Peters, lifestyle editor of XXL Magazine. “But if you're a stellar athlete and good at your sport, and you want to use these particular avenues to market yourself, I think it's fine."

But is going nude the new road to getting attention and juicy endorsement deals? Perhaps the answer is in past performance.

East German Katarina Witt won Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1988, and call it a credit to her lasting power, she landed the cover of Playboy in 1998.

And while this year these curlers are getting the attention, many observers say it's not just women who use sex to sell their sport and themselves -- basketball great Michael Jordan went from the boards to his boxers and briefs, turning air into green.