Olympic task facing the Wimbledon ground staff


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The Independent Online

When Centre Court empties for the last time a fortnight today the work of the Wimbledon ground staff will be far from finished. Twenty days after the last ball is struck, players will be on court again for the first match of this summer's Olympic tournament.

When the idea of staging the Olympic event at the All England Club was mooted the concern was whether the grass could recover in time. Clare Wood, the organising committee's sport manager for the tennis tournament, shared those worries, but now says the state of the courts is one of her least concerns.

For the last two years Eddie Seward, Wimbledon's head groundsman, has replicated this summer's scenario and has had the courts back in pristine condition within 20 days of the end of the Championships. Eddie will start working on the courts on the Sunday night as soon as this fortnight is over," Wood said.

"He has pre-germinated seed, which gives it three or four days head start. Then they work on the courts intensively. The results of the testing, particularly last year, were amazing. The technology these days is fantastic. On Centre Court you can create any condition you want – sun, rain, shade, whatever.

"I'm 100 per cent confident the courts are going to be fine. When people walk out here on Saturday 28 July they're going to be in as good condition as on Monday 25 June." The site will have a different feel, though Wood allayed fears that it might be covered with sponsors hoardings. "We'll have the Olympic rings and London 2012 as the logos on the canvases, but that's the only branding," she said.

The backdrops will still be purple and green, but the Olympic colours are brighter than Wimbledon's subdued shades. Players will be in their national team colours, rather than the "predominantly white" required during Wimbledon.

"I think it will be a much more relaxed atmosphere, more of a family day out," Wood said. "Overall, there will be more to do on the grounds. There will be a 'have a go' area and we'll be doing things around the big screen."

Because the event is all-ticket there will be no Olympic version of "the queue", which is as much a part of Wimbledon as strawberries and cream, while all spectators will have to go through airport-style security.

Play will start at 11.30 on the outside courts and at midday on Centre and No 1. With all matches over the best of three sets, the days are expected to finish earlier than at Wimbledon. Music will play between matches – but not at change-overs – and there will be screen presentations as the players are introduced to the crowd.

There will be no parking for spectators and no official cars for players other than the transport from the athletes' village. Most players will be staying in the Wimbledon area because of the distance from the village.

The fields will be announced on Thursday based on world rankings and Andy Murray is the only certain home player. His brother, Jamie, looks set to play with him in doubles, with Colin Fleming and Ross Hutchins also looking likely to make the cut. Anne Keothavong, as British No 1, is expected to be given a wild card and could be joined by Elena Baltacha, her predecessor at the top of the national rankings.