When I was going to the tournament, I was immediately warned that it was almost impossible to buy tickets on the site (they resell much more expensive than face value on other sites) and you will need to queue at the cashier from the night. It seemed to me sheer nonsense, or rather even a fiction, but no, it was so.
Arriving in London at the end of the first week of the tournament, I came to queue at the box office at seven in the morning and was distraught with the number of people. My number was in the sixth thousand, and the next day at the same time – already in the ninth. Entering the territory with such distant numbers took more than four hours from seven to eleven in the morning and allowed you to purchase a ground ticket for 25 pounds. It gave access to courts from the third to the eighteenth, and to get to the first two courts and the central one, you have to break into the first fifteen hundred queues.
The beginning of the line was formed from tents in the park directly opposite the Wimbledon courts on a large grass field several hectares in size. The whole field was lined with clear lines, each three hundred meters long. There were about ten such lines. The tents were set up clearly in lines one after another according to the numbers in the queue. Every day (except for the days of the semi-finals and finals), 500 tickets were allocated for the central court, 500 for the first and 500 for the second.
I had no tent or bedding, but when I started to wonder, then the organizers gave a tent, an air mattress and a sleeping bag left by the guys from the queue for general use. A white tape was glued to the tent with an inscription on whom to thank for it. But basically everyone had their own “roofs”.
In the evening they set up tents, and in the morning they were assembled, and the one who went to tennis, handed over his goods to the storage room, and those who stayed at the campsite took a queue from the very morning the next day, exchanging their number of the previous day for the number of the next … In this case, you are guaranteed to get into the first numbers of the queue, but for this you had to hang out all day on the field near the tent, entertaining yourself on your own. It was possible to go to the tournament from this queue strictly every other day.
In appearance, the camping resembled a sports festival, which attracted the whole world of fanatical tennis fans. On a giant field, campers played football, baseball, volleyball, minitennis, threw frisbees, tennis balls. It was a place for interesting acquaintances and a wonderful pastime in a very friendly atmosphere.
Having received the coveted coupon number 145 for the next day’s games and a place for a tent at eleven in the morning, I went to the tournament. And in the evening after the matches, I found a note: “Checking your tent at 19-05 revealed that it was left unattended for more than two hours. Come to the stewart urgently. ”
I walk up to the stewart in an orange T-shirt:
– This piece of paper was glued to my tent.
Stewart read the sheet, then looked at me and translated a look at the paper bag in my hands with the Wimbledon logo:
– You were not more than two hours near the tent, it looks like you were at tennis today once you had a bag with Wimbledon purchases in your hands. Your number in the queue 145 has been confiscated, – stewart declared with formidable importance, – and you will have to take the queue again.
“Well, okay, it’s not a big loss, I’ll still have time to get into the first thousand,” I thought and I went to get a new number.
Wimbledon is one of four tennis tournaments in the Grand Slam category and it is the dream of not only tennis players, but also fans to get there. The tournament has a special atmosphere and crazy excitement. The purchase of a ticket on the Internet or at the box office at the official cost, probably, seemed to the British too boring procedure and they decided to beat it differently.
Long before the start of the tournament, the organizers hold a ticket lottery. I met such lucky British people on the podium, so the lottery definitely works, at least for the British. For those who missed the lottery or did not win, but want to get into the stands of the main courts, they came up with a famous queue, which is considered an honor to defend.
Especially ticket excitement increased for the men’s games of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. There have been days when, after queuing up at midnight, you get a number at the end of the third thousand with no chances even for the second court, let alone the center or first. The approximate cost of tickets on different days, for example, to the central court ranged from 80 to 190 pounds, to the first court – from 60 to 135, on the second – from 50 to 85. Standing in line and getting the coveted ticket for your idol is already event.
There were strict rules in the tent queue that were followed by Honorable Stewarts. It is forbidden to leave your tents or places in line for more than thirty minutes. Checks took place from morning to evening every two hours. Experienced guys said that in past years, checks were carried out every forty-five minutes, and this year there are more loyal rules.
If there is no one in the tent at the time of the check, then in half an hour the check will be repeated. Absence in the tent for more than two hours led to the confiscation of the number, moving the tent to the end of the queue and getting a new serial number, as happened to me because of the souvenir towel in my hands.
It was interesting to see how adults play this game so seriously.
– Mat, can you do me a favor? – I appeal to the Brazilian guy from the next tent. – I have to leave, but my friend will come in two hours. Can you give her my ticket with a number?
– What if they find two numbers and confiscate both ?! – Mat has painted himself a terrible picture.
– So you don’t show my number, hide it in your pocket, – I tell him.
– No, I can’t. These stewards are very strict, if they suddenly find out, they will kick me out.
I am addressing another neighbor who overheard the conversation. The same reaction. “Well, I think people are completely mad because of these numbers. They are afraid of searches in their tents. ”
– Okay, I say, can you tell me when the check comes?
– I can.
An hour later I receive a message from Mat: – Your tent was checked. They said that the tent will be taken away and you won’t be given a room for tomorrow.
“Whatever you like,” I think, “they’ve already given me a number, and since they didn’t have time to fix it behind the tent, they won’t be able to pick it up. So it’s better for me not to appear there anymore. ”
Having figured out all the nuances, in the second week of the tournament, I began to resort to tricks to get to the main courts without spending the night in line. To get the coveted number in the evening, you had to show your tent, sleeping bag or, at least, an inflatable mattress. If you do not hold something of the bedding in your hands, there are suspicions that the cunning man will go home to spend the night, taking a number.
Several times I came in the evening to take a number and when asked where I would spend the night, pointed my finger in any direction with tents and said that I was spending the night at my friend’s tent, who had already received his number earlier. They gave me a number, and I went to spend the night in a rented apartment. Thus, no one could track my number in the queue and cancel it, because no one wrote down where I supposedly spent the night. Of course, I am ashamed of my tricks, which I resorted to in the queue, but, in general, I can sum up that it was not tennis as such, but the ticket queue itself that left the most vivid impressions in my memory.
How said my dad after reading this story: “War is bullshit, the main thing is maneuvers.”