Things ain't what they used to be: ASCOT

17-21 JUNE
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The Independent Online

How it was

"Royal Ascot is an internationally renowned sporting and social occasion, where tradition, pageantry, fashion and style all meet in a glorious setting." That's what the event's website says, at least.

How it is

Crowded, expensive, and with about as much class as a stretch limo. "It's like the last days of the Roman Empire, with miniskirts instead of togas," says one old hand. "The type of drunken behaviour that used to be particular to the cheap seats has spilled into smarter areas – and now anyone can get badges to the Royal Enclosure."

Nick Smith, a spokesman for Ascot, disagrees. "The whole thing is shrouded in myth. The Royal Enclosure hasn't really changed and it can't – without it there is no Royal Ascot."

Vital Statistics

Ascot Racecourse has a capacity of 80,000. Half of these people are on corporate tickets or pay for general admission (up to £54). About 15 per cent of visitors pass through the Royal Enclosure. Everyone else occupies the cheap seats (up to £25) in the Silver Ring.

Access to the Royal Enclosure requires a badge, which costs £82 a day or £310 for a week. New badge holders must be approved by someone who has attended the Royal Enclosure for four years – though nowadays you can get in with various "corporate" tickets.

The dress code includes "formal day dress with a hat or substantial fascinator. Gentlemen are required to wear either black or grey morning dress, including a waistcoat, with a top hat."

Racegoers will this year eat 10,000 lobsters, 18,000 salmon steaks, and 18,000 portions of foie gras. They will drink 160,000 pints of beer and 170,000 bottles of champagne. Approximately 400 helicopters and 1,000 limos descend on Royal Ascot every year.