Sat, Jul 21, 2012 - Page 19 News List

LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS: Wimbledon braced for purple haze after major makeover

AFP, LONDON

When Roger Federer returns to Wimbledon later this month to begin his bid for Olympic gold, the seven-time champion will find the historic venue he regards as a second home has undergone a major facelift.

Federer barely had time to pack away his rackets after his final victory over Andy Murray before Wimbledon groundstaff began to transform the hallowed confines of the All England Club into a riot of color ahead of the Olympic tennis event.

The Games are returning to Wimbledon for the first time since 1908 and the experience will come as quite a culture shock to those used to the genteel surroundings of the southwest London arena.

Aside from the high-quality tennis on show, a significant part of Wimbledon’s charm is the tranquil atmosphere.

From the creeping vines and flowers that cover the outside of Centre Court to the club’s insistence that all players must wear white kit, there is something unique about Wimbledon.

Between Saturday next week and August 5, all that will change and even seven-time champion Federer may be forgiven for doing a double-take when he gets his first glimpse of the overhaul.

Dark green is the dominant color during the Wimbledon tournament, but the All England Club will be lost in a purple haze for the duration of the Games, with many of the outside courts decked out in the vivid Olympic livery and legendary ring logo within 24 hours of Federer’s triumph.

Perhaps most noticeably, the Wimbledon requirement that players wear white clothing will be gone. Instead, spectators can expect a rainbow of hues as players wearing outfits in the colors of their nation bring a splash of color to the world’s most famous tennis courts.

However, despite some marked differences, one thing will have to be the same — the grass courts — and that means plenty of extra work for head groundskeeper Eddie Seaward and his 28-person team. Seaward is due to retire this summer after more than 20 years, but before that, he and his team face the job of returning the courts to top condition in record time.

“We’ve had Davis Cup ties before, soon after the Championships, but that’s only one court, and there will be 10 match courts for the Olympics,” he said. “There are fewer matches for the Olympics than for a Grand Slam, and the matches are shorter, but it’s going to be very high profile.”

They may not be able to follow the usual post-Championship renovation program, which would ordinarily take 12 months to complete, but Seaward is confident they will get it done.

“We have 20 days between The Championships and the Olympics, and we’re confident that we can get the grass back on the baselines,” he said. “Between the two events, we’re going to be sowing grasses which are pre-germinated — in other words, they would have already started to grow. That should take about three days. On the practice courts, it’s a different issue, as the players will start practicing about a week after The Championships finish, and we won’t have time to do much in that time.”

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