There was a party atmosphere as spectators arrived for the first day of Olympic tennis at Wimbledon on Saturday, with music blaring from loudspeakers as fans clad in their country’s flags sipped drinks on the sun-drenched grassy hill by Court One.
The All England Club has undergone a complete makeover since the Wimbledon Championships finished less than three weeks ago, with the courts now decked in bright purple and the normally dark green site dotted with pink signs and London 2012 logos.
“I like the colours, 10 out of 10,” said university lecturer Christine Steel, wearing a Union Jack party hat as she took in the new-look club before heading to Centre Court, where this year’s men’s Wimbledon champion Roger Federer is in action later.
“We are not used to the music,” said Wimbledon regular Susan Lax, who had travelled down from Durham in the north east of England on Friday, raising her voice to be heard over rock band Blur. “It is not as sedate as it usually is but I think it has got plenty of atmosphere.”
Despite all the changes, which also include players taking to the courts in their national colours rather than the traditional crisp white usually required at Wimbledon, she could not have imagined the tennis being held anywhere else.
“Wimbledon is tennis for Britain,” she said.
Visitors arriving before play began took the opportunity to explore, having their photo taken with the giant grass statue of a tennis-playing Olympic mascot Wenlock and watching players being put through their paces out on the practice courts.
“It is great, everyone is smiling,” said 30-year-old Tim Olford, who was looking forward to seeing 17-time grand slam champion Federer begin his quest for his first Olympic gold in the men’s singles.
For those who had never been to Wimbledon before, the opportunity to watch tennis at the famous club at the same time as experiencing the Olympics was a big draw.
“I always thought it would be so neat to go to Wimbledon,” said 37-year-old American Jolyn Pobanz, who lives in Germany and was visiting London for a few days with her husband and three children, all wearing U.S. flag t-shirts.
“It is not the Wimbledon competition but to be at Wimbledon for the Olympics is unique.”