There are so many things to love about Wimbledon. The Royal Box isn't one of them.by Geoff Dyer / June 28, 2012 / Leave a comment
I hadn’t been to Wimbledon for thirty years. It had become one of many events on this overcrowded island of ours that was simply impossible to get to. Minus the time difference it might as well have taken place in Melbourne. It had come to exist solely—and quite satisfactorily—on TV.
And then yesterday I made my triumphant return. Have you been. No? Oh, then you’re missing out. It’s fantastic—probably the single best thing England has to offer. What I hadn’t realised, after all those years of watching it on TV, is that Wimbledon is a festival—without the litter and the scruffs. Even if you’ve got tickets for one of the show courts you still spend quite a bit of time doing that festival thing: wandering around aimlessly and enjoyably. You’re conscious, of course, of the headline acts on the main stage, of where and when they’re playing, but you catch all sorts of other performers you never intended seeing for the simple reason that you’d never heard of them. Great matches can erupt anywhere, in any round, on any court.
As you wander around you are conscious of another festival-like quality. All the people there—staff, stewards and punters alike—are on their best behaviour. Everyone is polite and friendly and not in a hurry because they’re already where they want to be. They’re in that festival zone, an alternative and improved reality. At first it can seem a little off-putting having soldiers and sailors showing you to your seats as if you’re living under a military dictatorship but they are courtesy itself. A rather stupid objection is made to Wimbledon that it is some kind of hideous outing for, and indictment of, middle England and the home counties. Well, all I can say is that if it’s a choice between a crowd applauding the arrival of the ball boys and girls, who cheer the opponent even when he or she rips a ball past—and eventually defeats—whoever happens to be the great British hope of any given era, then give me that over a mass of males telling the referee he’s a blind cunt and generally heaping abuse at the visiting team in a football stadium any day of the year for the rest of eternity.