Tents, TVs and pizza delivery: What it's like to queue at Wimbledon



July 07, 2017 07:31:56

“That’s not a queue, this is a queue,” quipped the steward, as he heard my Australian accent.

After 20 minutes of walking from Centre Court at the All England Club, I’d finally reached the end of the line.

Not the end of any old queue but rather The Queue — an enormous, orderly snaking column of thousands of people.

“It’s just great,” said Michal Henderson, who had arrived mid-morning eager to get in to Wimbledon.

“I’m confident. It could take five hours to get ground tickets and see some tennis this evening. If we don’t, I’ll come back tomorrow.”

Pre-booked tickets for Wimbledon are hard to get.

Some people enter a ballot hoping for the best, others book package tours — but the most determined fans camp in an unremarkable suburban park in south-west London for two days in an attempt to see the biggest stars.

“We need to be in the first 500 to get on centre court,” Catherine Lee from Leicestershire said.

“We’ve got a bit of a nervous wait. We arrived early this morning and want tickets for tomorrow but we aren’t sure if we got here in time.”

Wimbledon has strict rules and so does The Queue.

It is governed by stewards and its own code of conduct, an explanatory booklet, is handed out along with a queue number to everyone who arrives at the end of the line.

Some rules are obvious. For example, you’re not allowed to push in.

Others deal with the playing of ball games, the maximum size of tents and even where pizzas should be delivered to.

“Orders must be arranged for delivery at the Wimbledon Park Road gate only,” it states.

“Barbecues or fires are NOT permitted.”

Neither are gazebos.

The most experienced fans tell me the queue has grown from a relatively small line to its current monster size over the past two decades.

They claim tennis lovers from across globe have started arriving earlier and earlier each year in a bid to get the best spots.

The Queue now has food vans, toilets, entertainment and TV screens dotted along its winding route.

“It used to be so much easier,” one old Wimbledon local lamented.

“But it’s still worth it.”

Clearly not everyone agrees, particularly a few unprepared foreigners I meet.

Some disappointed Australian fans summarised their views in words not fit for print.

But Brits claim waiting in an orderly fashion is something of a national pastime.

Mainstream media outlets publish guides each year on how to successfully navigate and enjoy the line.

There are also Twitter accounts and hashtags, where fans share their experiences waiting.

Like it or not, The Queue has now joined the lofty ranks of strawberries, cream and all-white playing outfits.

It’s a become a tradition at the world’s oldest tennis tournament.





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