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Vuvuzelas will not shatter the peace at Wimbledon

Sports Desk |
Update: 2010-06-18 14:52:36

LONDON: Enthusiastic tennis fans will not be allowed to shatter the traditional tranquillity of the All England Club with vuvuzelas, despite the popularity of the plastic horn at the World Cup this year.

Wimbledon security has been told to confiscate -- in the politest possible way -- any of the South African noise-makers at the gates when the championships start on Monday.

"We won`t be having the vuvuzelas," All England Club chief executive Ian Ritchie told Reuters in his elegant wood-panelled office overlooking the pristine grass courts.

"Half a dozen people with those things on Henman Hill and the entire grounds would hear them. So they are not suitable for us and we will be stopping them coming."

The grand slam is taking no account of the world`s biggest soccer festival.

Ritchie, a self-confessed football fan, is adamant Wimbledon will show only tennis matches on its big screen overlooking the grassy knoll of Henman Hill.

"I think it`s a fair to say that when Wembley (Stadium) puts tennis up then we`ll think of putting football on the big screen."

The tournament has no fear of the soccer event and officials are quite confident that queues will still snake down Church Road towards Southfields -- a neighbourhood, coincidentally, with a big South African expatriate population.

Advance tickets were sold out months ago and the only dip in attendance on the day might be when England were playing, Ritchie suggested.

Preparations for Roger Federer and Serena Williams to defend their titles are in full swing at the club as caterers, stewards, drivers, locker room attendants, launderers, ticket sellers, cleaners, security staff, electricians, lawn tenders, flower arrangers, hanging basket waterers, court coverers, and ball boys and girls apply final touches and complete training.

There appears to be no panic or anxiety, just confident practised efficiency.

Wimbledon, it seems, has been immune from the ravages of the credit crunch, banking collapse and financial austerity. Its Centre Court debenture issue last year was heavily oversubscribed and raised more than $90 million.

Its commercial partners, sponsors and broadcasters have nearly all extended contracts recently on favourable terms and corporate hospitality, Ritchie`s barometer of success, is looking stronger than ever, he said.

Capacity is slightly reduced this year after record attendances of 511,000 in 2009 because the Club is rebuilding showcourt three.

MURRAY FACTOR

Last year for every ticket on sale on any given day there were four people queuing, many overnight for the best seats.

Ritchie puts Wimbledon`s resilience partly down to a "Murray factor". Local fans hope that the world number four will produce a British Wimbledon men`s champions for the first time in 74 years -- just as they vainly hoped with Tim Henman. But he also credits Wimbledon`s mixture of innovation and tradition and its single-mindedness.

The moveable roof on Centre Court first used last year for a Murray match proved a late-night success and the drama of Hawk-Eye line replays have met with almost universal acclaim.

Some find Wimbledon`s traditions stuffy. Players must wear white on court and, in Ritchie`s office complex, ties are mandatory.

But Federer, a six times winner, loves all the traditions that go hand in hand with the event. For the past few years, he has worn a cream blazer or cardigan designed especially for the tournament and is delighted to follow the custom, as men`s champion, of opening the action on Centre Court on Monday when he meets Colombia`s Alejandro Falla.

Wimbledon will step slightly out of line in 2012 when it hosts the Olympics, but that is not unprecedented as the 1908 Games also used the Club.

Ritchie`s job and those of the club committee revolve round just two weeks of an English summer.

"I think it`s extremely helpful that we`re very focused. All we do is this. Sometime people and businesses try to expand or go into other business.

"But we`ve found that `sticking to the knitting` is rather a good thing."

BDST: 1120hrs, June 19, 2010
CG

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