Picnic hampers and cool-boxes ruled 'out!' at Wimbledon in new security crackdown

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The only explosions to be heard coming from picnic hampers at Wimbledon have traditionally emanated from the pop of the champagne bottles they are used to transport.

The only explosions to be heard coming from picnic hampers at Wimbledon have traditionally emanated from the pop of the champagne bottles they are used to transport.

In a sign that the war on terror has now spread to practically every aspect of modern British life, the up-market food carrier is to be banned amid fears that they may harbour bombs.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club has announced that no hard-sided hampers, cool-boxes or briefcases would be allowed into the grounds during the championships which start in eight weeks' time.

In addition to the hamper ban, visitors to SW19's festival of tennis will also be limited to one bag per person.

The decision is unlikely to go down well on Henman Hill. The noisy and boisterous crowd which gathers in front of a giant television screen there to cheer on the British challenger - typically to heroic defeat - has become a favourite picnic area in recent years.

But Wimbledon insists it is not being a spoilsport. "We are not banning picnics," emphasised the club's chairman, Tim Phillips. "Ticket-holders are welcome to bring refreshments as long as their bags are not too big.

"We work very closely with the police to plan and implement appropriate security measures, and we try to deliver these in a considerate manner.

"There should be no hard-sided containers coming in. That's because hard-sided containers have been used in the past to conceal things which we would not wish brought into the grounds."

For security reasons, there have been no left luggage facilities inside the grounds for the past two years. All left luggage facilities will again be relocated outside the grounds, on the golf course, Car Park No 1 and St Mary's Church car park.

"There is nothing to prevent spectators from keeping hampers at left luggage and bringing refreshments to the grounds in transparent bags," Mr Phillips said.

Spectators should be prepared for extra searches, "including of the person," at all entry points to the grounds and on entry to Centre Court, No 1 and No 2 Courts.

The Championships, which will have a record prize money of £10,085,510, will bid farewell to two of its long servants after this year's tournament: Alan Mills, the referee, and Chris Gorringe, the chief executive, both of whom have become associated with rain delays.

For the past 23 years, Mr Mills has been the man who has decided when the covers go on and off the courts. Mr Gorringe, who joined the club in 1973, is the weather voice of Wimbledon, making announcements over the PA system in sombre tones: "Ladies and gentlemen, may have your attention please ..."

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