In this blog, the Mentor Education team will share some fascinating facts about Wimbledon – from tidbits about Rufus the hawk, to the strict dress code, even tennis aficionados will learn something new! Keep reading for more information…
The Wimbledon Championships have a long and fascinating history. Initially held on 9th June 1877 at Worple Road in Wimbledon, the first tournament didn’t attract the famous athletes that we tend to expect today. In fact, it was billed as ‘a lawn tennis meeting, open to all amateurs’ – meaning that virtually anyone could sign up to play…
…If they were a man, that is. The Men’s Singles competition was the only one played that year. Ladies’ Singles and Men’s Doubles were added in 1884, and – finally – Ladies’ Doubles and Mixed Doubles in 1913.
Wimbledon’s first ever winner was Spencer Gore, a tennis player and professional cricketer. Gore was born and raised less than a mile from the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.
Rufus, Wimbledon’s resident Harris hawk, is no ordinary bird. Every day, Rufus scouts the skies above Wimbledon for local pigeons and scares them away so that the tournament can continue unimpeded. He’s also something of a celebrity, with 10,500 Twitter followers!
As you can imagine, a tournament of Wimbledon’s magnitude necessitates a lot of tennis balls – over 50,000 each year. A great deal of care is taken to ensure that the balls are in premium condition for play: they’re inspected rigorously and are replaced every seven to nine games. When they’re not being used, the balls are stored carefully in special refrigerated containers.
Did you know that Wimbledon’s strict dress code is thought to date back to the 1800s? The tradition of wearing ‘whites’ is believed to have been introduced soon after the tournament’s conception, with the aim of hiding any unsightly sweat patches from appearing on the players’ clothing. The management team at Wimbledon were particularly concerned about the appearance of women players: some argue that the rule was established because the idea of seeing a female sweat was ‘quite unthinkable’.
The rule is still in place today – and rumour has it that, if the Club so desired, they could even request that dark arm or leg hair be dyed white!
Being selected to be a ball boy or girl during Wimbledon is a huge honour – and, as a result, the process is extremely competitive. Just 250 ball boys and girls are chosen (out of close to 1000 applicants), after which they have to undergo rigorous training (they’re even tested to make sure they can stand very still for lengths of time!).
But once training is over, they don’t get to relax: all ball boys and girls are continuously assessed to ensure they meet the Club’s high standards. Anyone who does not make the grade is not allowed to take part.
Though the championship has been running since 1877, Wimbledon weather records didn’t start until 1922; however, since then, there have only been seven tournaments without rain interruptions!
Fortunately in 2009 Centre Court’s retractable roof was installed, meaning that – whatever the weather – the show can still go on! The roof is made of 100% recyclable fabric and takes a maximum of 10 minutes to close. Once closed, eight litres of fresh air per person is pumped into the space every second to maintain an optimum environment.
With around 500,000 people flocking to Wimbledon to watch the tennis each year, catering at the Club is a massive operation.
Indeed, on average, the venue’s 2,000 staff serve 8,600 punnets of strawberries a day (which are all Grade I Kent berries which are picked the day before sale). Over the course of the tournament, that’s about 142,000 portions of strawberries; typically, they’re served with cream (about 7,000 litres are served over the two weeks) and a glass of Pimm’s (nearly 250,000 glasses) or champagne (nearly 30,000 bottles). Cheers!