In London for Wimbledon

28 Jul 2013

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Men’s doubles semi-finals being contested,  Photo: Charles  Ajunwa

Charles Ajunwa attended the recently concluded 2013 Wimbledon Championships in London and writes on his experience….

When I got to London on July 3 on the invitation of British Airways for the delivery ceremony of its first A380 aircraft, I looked forward to watching some of the lawn tennis matches at the Wimbledon Championship included in our itinerary by the airline.

When I boarded a cab from Heathrow Airport to my hotel, Sofitel St James, the local radio stations were abuzz with commentaries on the Championship. Some of the newspapers kept in my room such as Guardian and Independent had their covers emblazoned with photographs of Andy Murray who was one of the participants at Wimbledon representing United Kingdom. I also noticed that some editorials were dedicated to the Championship for the simple reason that no Briton had won it in the last 77 years and all attention was focused on Murray whose performance was encouraging. Many of the television channels also focused on Wimbledon.

It did not stop there. After refreshing in my hotel, I walked down to Trafalgar Square and what I saw was shocking. There were signatures of the Wimbledon Championships all over the city. In most of the public places like hotels, restaurants, offices, shops and open grounds for recreation, there were makeshift courts and green balls dotting the whole place. And adults, children and even the handicapped were not left out as they gathered in groups in the friendly summer weather discussing Wimbledon.

Finally on Day 10, we got to see some matches. The moment we arrived the venue, I was the first person to alight from the mini-bus itching watch the matches. I was given a ticket by BA’s Public Relation’s Manager, Camilla  Barrett which gave me access to No.1Court Stand with seat number 232 by the second level of row H located at gateway 28. The ticket was designed in such a way to make visitors locate their seats easily.

The Championship grounds was covered in 40 acres of lush green grass and trees and built on land which is not totally level. Secured car parks were provided for visitors to park their vehicles. It has a total of 19 courts. 

After having our tickets and bags checked at gate 5 by friendly security officials, we reached a consensus to have our lunch first at Wingfield Restaurant. After we had our meals, we headed straight to Court 1 where security personnel were stationed at the entrance of each gateway checking the tickets, we were not allowed into the venue until the change of ends. This was part of steps not to cause distraction to players already in action on the turf including the seated spectators.

As obtained in other sports, spectators at Wimbledon Championships have their Do’s and Don’ts. On the Do’s spectators were asked to observe the following: leave prohibited items at left luggage, leave plenty of time to reach your destination-either getting into the Grounds or when moving within the Grounds, switch off mobile telephones, tablets and other communication devices in the stands and around the courts. While the Don’ts are: don’t buy tickets from touts, enter or leave the stands except at a change of ends and not during a tie-break, make a noise during a rally, applaud a net cord or double fault, use flash photography from the stands-automatic flashlights must be suppressed, bring babes in arms or children under five into any show court, smoke within the stands of any court or in any enclosed space, take glass or uncovered drinks containers, hot or strong smelling food onto the show courts, and leave items unattended at any time. 

At Court 1, I watched a Men’s Doubles semi-final match. Bob Bryan/Mike Bryan (U.S.) beat 14-Rohan Bopanna/Edouard Roger-Vasselin (India/France) 6-7(4) 6-4 6-3 5-7 6-3, and Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Quarterfinal matches which Jean-Julien Rojer/Vera Dushevina (Netherlands/Russia) beat 7-Rohan Bopanna/Zheng Jie (India/China) 6-3 3-6 6-3, Bruno Soares/Lisa Raymond (Brazil/United States) beat John Peers/Ashleigh Barty (Australia) 7-6(6) 7-6(4) and Daniel Nestor/Kristina Mladenovic (Canada/France) beat 2-Horia Tecau/Sania Mirza (Romania/India) 7-6(5) 7-6(5).

From my seat, I gasped for breath as the players put up stunning acrobatic styles on the green turf. At some point, I unknowingly threw punches in the air, kicked my two legs against the wall and shouted ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ especially when the players released extraordinary shots

Inside court 1, apart from the players in action, the umpire and the ball boys were there to ensure that they lived up to the spectators’ expectations in terms of the flow. Different uniformed security personnel were present to ensure peace and tranquility. Some students waited patiently for the players to end their matches before giving them green balls or jerseys to endorse their autographs. And big screen boards were strategically positioned inside the court for spectators to follow the results. Cameramen equally positioned themselves in a way that they didn’t block the view of spectators.

There were other activities outside Court1 as visitors milled around all the courts and also visited the restaurants, shops, museum and other facilities provided within the venue. The Wimbledon Shops, in the Centre and No.1Court stadia, between Gates 3 & 4 and in Kiosks around the grounds, stock all official Wimbledon merchandise and a wide range of gifts and souvenirs.
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum which is located at Gate 3 opens daily throughout the year from 10am to 5pm and during the championships for ticket holders only (9.30am to 8pm).

Apart from a pharmacy located in No.1 Court (level1) near Gate 3, well maintained public toilets are provided within the venue.
I was also fascinated when I saw the aged, mothers strolling around with little babes in pushchairs and even the handicapped being wheeled around by their loved ones. Visitors who could not make it inside Court 1 were provided an open place where a big screen board was positioned showing all the actions going on inside Court 1.
Many of the spectators especially ladies wore skimpy dresses with sun glasses to match. Some lovers also cuddled themselves in the open space enjoying every second of the games.

Apart from scoreboards showing point by point scores for matches on Centre and No.1Court located on the main concourse and outside the No.1Court stadium, full match information displays were available on the Main Concourse opposite Court 4 and near Gate 5. Official programmes are purchased from kiosks around the Grounds.

Children five years and above are allowed into the courts provided they have their own seat and do not disturb other spectators while children under 12 should be accompanied by an adult at all times. Also, babes in arms and children under five are not allowed into the Show Courts (Centre, No.1,No.2 and No.3 Courts and Courts 12 and 18).

Though the 2013 Wimbledon Championships has come and gone with Murray emerging the champion after defeating world number Novak Djokovic 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 straight sets, the Wimbledon Championship witnessed some amazing moments. Even though I could not watch the match between Murray and Djokovic, I was one of those who celebrated with fans of Murray on the day he won the title. “I can’t believe it,” “I can’t believe it,” Murray said after the men single finals.

Tags: Business, Nigeria, Featured, WIMBLEDON

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