Hippopotennis, this year's Community Art Project, took The Championships by storm, visitors to the Queue greeted by a giant Hippo. But what's happened to the Hippo since?
Every now and then something comes along that makes you stop, albeit briefly, evaluate what you are seeing and allow you to move on a little more informed than you were a few moments earlier, something most people chalk down as ‘experience’. If you visited The Championships in 2014 and you entered via the Queue, or you have a passing interest in minor blogs placed on major websites then you won’t have been able to ignore the oddity that was, and still is, the Hippopotennis.
The Hippopotennis, for those that still don’t know, is a full size hippo, suspended in a pyramid and appearing to float in a virtual lake of water hyacinths and represents the number of tennis balls used over the Wimbledon fortnight by the players. The hippo lived in the queue for The Championships and after a short naming competition on Twitter, became known as ‘Horatio’ and spent most of his time idly watching the world pass by and wondering, via social media, what others were thinking or planning to do that day. Surprisingly he gained over 200 followers on Twitter and became something of an extremely minor celebrity for a couple of weeks, interviewed by Wimbledon.com, even appearing on Asian television to an audience of over 700 million people. It seems that most people when faced with a full size hippo with open jaws, find an excuse to stick their head in its mouth, and this is how most people viewed Horatio, tonsil first.
Hacker the dog (a British children’s television personality with a love/hate relationship with tennis) and Rufus the Hawk (he of the 1 million plus YouTube hits sensation) both made an excursion from their day jobs to sit in Horatio’s mouth. People asked Horatio questions about Wimbledon, sent him songs to listen to, wished him good morning and goodnight, children danced around him and threw balloons over him, whilst parents patiently queued for a ticket, Honorary Stewards stared at him in disbelief; this is Wimbledon, why is there a hippo? Horatio it seemed was rather well received, quite extraordinary for a papier mache hippo placed on the virtual forecourt of a sporting event that showcases the best tennis athletes in the world.
For those that understand the maze of confusion that is the internet you will know that no matter what you do, for every ‘liker’ there is a ‘hater’, for the rest of us this translates as ‘most things are divisive’. Horatio has the ability to divide opinion as much as the next hippo, or tennis player, yet somehow even those who ‘hate’ him seem to find something in him to ‘like’.
As images for the 2014 Championships go, a hippo is one of the least likely, but I imagine Horatio became one of the most photographed non-player related things over the fortnight. Today he continues to form a fine backdrop for ‘selfies’ and family portraits as he now lives beside the turnstiles opposite Court 17 in the shadow of Centre Court. Officially he still remains the 2014 Education Department Community Art Project, but unofficially he has become something of a Wimbledon landmark. People agree to meet by him, tours reference him and the mole like workers who form the backbone of The Championship’s, held captive out of sight of the public during the tennis, holed up in dark backrooms ensuring all is well above ground for players and public alike, slowly emerge, blinking in the sunlight only to realise that Wimbledon has become home to Savannah wildlife, take a ‘selfie’ of themselves in his mouth, then hastily retreat back whence they came for another year.
For the past few months Horatio has hung where he currently sits, so if you're in the area and you want to see for yourself what a hippo by a tennis court looks like then please do drop by. Access to Horatio is free but if you are already on site then it would be folly not to visit the Museum, which consequently, is another good place to stop, evaluate and move on a little more informed than you were before.
Come the New Year, we'll beginning planning the Community Art Project for 2015 (watch this space), and so Horatio will retire to a new home in the local community. We hope he'll be happy.
If you would like to find out more about the Community Art Projects or the Education Department then please take a look here.