LONDON: Wimbledon has ramped up security following the recent wave of terror attacks in London, chief executive Richard Lewis said as the prestigious tennis tournament got under way Monday.
Under-cover surveillance spotters, firearms officers and protective barriers are in place to protect the two-week tournament, which typically sees around 40,000 people per day visiting the site.
Barriers have been placed along the route into Wimbledon, following vehicle-based terror attacks on pedestrians this year on bridges in central London.
“They have been put in based upon a recommendation by the security service because of the recent terrorist attacks,” Lewis told reporters at the All England Club.
“There´s an increase in surveillance from the security services and ourselves.
“There´s other increased measures in place but most of them are below the radar,” he said, refusing to divulge details for security reasons.
Lewis said the players were comfortable with the level of security.
“The comments have been positive. They say they feel safe and secure and its something they´re used to around the world,” he said.
Besides the firearms officers, a mobile reserve unit is on the ground to respond to emerging incidents.
Police have not been informed of any specific threat to the championships.
– Raising the roof –
Besides the protective barriers, the most visible difference this year is the roof of the 11,000-seater Court One, which is being replaced with a retractable roof like the main Centre Court to keep play going during rain spells.
The old fixed roof is gone and the first parts of of what will be a retractable roof are in place.
Construction will resume shortly after the tournament ends. The new £70 million ($90 million, 80 million euro) roof will be in operation for 2019 championships.
Wedged in a triangle between two roads, the All England Club has little room to expand within its current boundaries.
It owns a large swathe of parkland next to the tennis grounds but Wimbledon Park Golf Club has the lease until 2041 and has so far spurned the tennis club´s financial offers to leave early.
“The biggest thing on the horizon, long-term, is the park,” said Lewis.
“We´ll just continue monitoring the situation. The closer it gets to 2041 we might as well just wait till 2041. They turned down the invitation to negotiate.
“Long term, the future is secure because we know we´ll have even more space in many years to come,” he said.
– No tie break –
Last year the grass court season leading up to Wimbledon was extended from two weeks to three to give the players more time to adjust from the clay courts of the French Open.
“It´s good. It helps a lot,” Lewis told AFP.
“The players arrive feeling better prepared and more rested from Roland Garros. It affects us quite noticeably in terms of the number of players who arrive early and spend longer here. Strategically, it´s a big difference.”
Another British institution, parliament, has relaxed the dress code in recent days after an MP was allowed to address the House of Commons without wearing a tie.
But Wimbledon, a stickler for dress codes, will absolutely not be following suit.
Players will still be wearing all white, match officials will still be in ties, while jackets and ties are required for gentlemen invited into Centre Court´s royal box.
“I think it´s part of the charm of Wimbledon that in some places, like the queue it´s incredibly relaxed, and in other parts it´s jacket and tie, so no plans to change,” Lewis told AFP.