Tourists indulge at Wimbledon

A sight almost as familiar to Wimbledon spectators as seeing most British tennis players exit in the first round is the snaking queue of fans that spend hours, some camping overnight, desperate for a ticket.

by: Reuters | 29 Jun 2007

But for those lucky enough or rich enough to be able to bypass the ballots and the standing in line awaits an experience even the inevitable downpour cannot spoil.

British company Sportsworld is one of two tour operators officially appointed to run hospitality packages by competition organizers the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Among their most loyal customers are wealthy foreigners looking for a taste of the idealized English summer.

"One type of guest is the overseas inbound guests, often from the United States, in order for them to experience the best of British, the quintessential English experience," says Chad Lion-Cachet, Sportsworld Chief Executive.

Seekers of such an experience can either buy private tables in a dedicated hospitality complex, or if travelling in groups of 30 or more, take a private chalet.

Either way, there's little chance guests will go hungry or thirsty.

There's Champagne, the English summer drink Pimm's, and canapés on arrival, an all-day free bar, four-course lunch, afternoon tea with strawberries and cream, even umbrellas in case England treats its visitors to a taste of traditional English summer weather and then there's the tennis.

Tickets for Sportsworld's packages run from the cheapest, 340 pounds (almost R5 000) per person for Number One Court on Thursday July 5, to 2,850 pounds (almost R41 000) for main attraction Centre Court on the day of the men's final.

"It is the top end, it is a luxury experience," says Lion-Cachet, whose clients include Fortis Bank, accountants Ernst & Young, and law firm Eversheds.

Hospitality packages are one thing, but for those with truly bulging wallets there are debentures, long-term ticketing deals offered by the owners of the famous grass court venue.

For 23,150 pounds (about R330 000), just under the average annual British salary, debenture holders get a ticket to Centre Court for every day of the tournament, and access to exclusive lounges and bars where they can wash down lobster with bottles of Champagne.

It's here that the serious indulgence happens.

"At the final there are always a couple of guys who watch it on TV with drinks in their hands when it's going on a couple of yards away."

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