Wimbledon 97: Court circular: Boys from the wet stuff

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The Independent Online
It was hard yesterday in SW19 to escape the memory of another great English sporting institution. Three months on, the dreaded word on most lips as the long queue of humanity stuttered its way through the Wimbledon gates on day one was Aintree.

Fearful of the kind of disruption inflicted on the Grand National in March by the IRA, the All England Club authorities were certainly taking no chances here.

To facilitate the bag and body search of every spectator, the die-hard queuers are being restricted to one entrance only this year. The move made the wait longer than in previous years, but with typical British stoicism, the Wimbledon worshippers bore the delay and inconvenience with remarkable good humour.

A medal ought to be struck for four intrepid souls from Southend, who took first place in the queue at 6pm on Saturday night, knowing that a wait of 40 hours was in front of them and also knowing that the weather forecast predicted a somewhat less than comfortable stay for them on the Church Road tarmac.

It is a yearly ritual for these young men from Southend, who have become familiar faces to the Wimbledon groundstaff. Needless to say, they were first in when the gates swung open at 10.30 yesterday morning, but nobody dared risk an ironic observation on Britain's glorious summer in their hearing.