The All England Club is revered as the ultimate bastion of tennis tradition but things will certainly be a little different when for the 2012 Olympic event that will be staged on the hallowed lawns of Wimbledon. And the most immediate change visible to the spectators will be players allowed to compete in clothing of all colors rather than adhering to the club’s “predominantly white rule.”
Doubtless there will be some among the All England Club membership who will blanche at the thought of Roger Federer wearing a pink shirt similar to the one he chose for last week’s Rogers Cup in Toronto, current champion Rafael Nadal being clad in vibrant orange or Bethanie Mattek-Sands donning one of her more outlandish animal skin outfits. However national team colors and uniforms are bound to determine what contestants will wear.
Wimbledon’s hierarchy is keen to stress that the Olympics has a very different identity to the annual Championships. Nobody should expect multi-colored outfits to be allowed annually during the last week of June and the first of July and indeed the playing dress code for club members all year round will continue to be predominantly white. But Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Club maintained he has no problem with things being a little different for the Olympic event which begins July 28, 2012, just 20 days after that year’s Wimbledon men’s champion has been handed his trophy.
“We have been very supportive to the Olympic organizers throughout the process,” said Ritchie. “We hope to some extent there will be a different type of audience. It is not a repeat of the Championships. It will be its own competition, have its own style and it will play out in its own way.
And there is no concern that attracting more paying spectators will be a problem so soon after the highpoint of the British tennis calendar. Debbie Jevans, London 2012 director of sport and venues and herself a former Wimbledon contestant and All England Club member, insisted the organizers were confident there still would be an appetite for tennis at Wimbledon such a short time later. "There will be a lot of people who do not get tickets for the Championships," she said. "It gives them the chance to see the best players in the world."
Five gold medals will be up for grabs at Wimbledon with Mixed Doubles becoming an Olympic event for the first time and all competitions will be contested over three sets, except for the men's final, which will played best-of-five. A total of 172 players will compete over nine days of tennis.
And Eddie Seaward, head groundsman at the All England Club, is insistent the courts will have sufficient time to recover. Reseeding tests on the grass have recently been carried out after this year’s event and no concerns have been raised.
“Right from the beginning of being involved in the London bid we knew that this was where there was going to be a big consultation with out ground staff and we always felt pretty confident,” said Ritchie.
“This year we decided to do a very small test on Centre Court, so you are only talking about a handful of people, but the principles are still the same. The interesting thing now is that most of the wear is at the baselines outside the actual playing surface. Therefore where the ball actually bounces is hardly affected so we don’t believe it will interfere with play at all.”
Only 12 of the available 17 courts will be required, meaning crowd capacity will be 26,000, down from 40,000 during the championships.
Play will begin at 11 a.m. local time, and is expected to continue until about 8 p.m. although, as at the last two Championships, play could carry on under the roof on Centre Court if circumstances demand.
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