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Visitor's view: The Stadium (Way) After the Game

Centre Court at night from the Centre Court 360
by Ben Chatfield
Monday 25 November 2013

Did you know that you can go and sit on Centre Court at Wimbledon, all year round? Wimbledon resident Ben Chatfield did just that, and wrote up his experience for Wimbledon.com...

It is 4.58 pm on Saturday, November 23rd. To my reckoning that is exactly 138 days, 23 hours and 26 minutes since the moment, at 5.24 pm on Saturday July 7th, that Andy Murray changed his life, my life… history. I wasn’t there. I was sitting, with four hundred other people, in the Rose & Crown in Wimbledon village, barely able to look at the screen to which I had been glued for over three hours.

And here I am now, on Centre Court, on my own, on a crisp Saturday evening in November, two minutes before the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum’s 360-degree viewing balcony closes for the night. I am staring at a completely empty centre court. It’s 15,000 seats covered in little green jackets, hibernating for the winter months before spring comes round to warm them, unzip them, then throw them off come June. It is completely magical. Like a dream.

The scoreboard still shows the 5.24pm moment, as if frozen in time, or incredulity. The disbelieving eyes still struggle to take it in. Did it really happen?

There is something to be said for visiting places ‘out of season’ or ‘the stadium after the game’, Our incredulous and rational mind struggles to compute the mixed message. The south of France in January or a ski resort in July spring to mind. But is anywhere more synonymous with balmy summer days than Centre Court? And is any summer day balmier, hazier, more magical than July 7th 2013?

I read somewhere that on the Monday after his triumph Andy Murray sat alone in the stands himself and contemplated the enormity of his achievement. But you don’t have to be Andy himself to do it. I am contemplating the enormity of it and I just watched.

And as I take one last gaze round the empty stadium, as dusk becomes dark, I am led to think that in this world of ‘on’ and an internet which records everything for posterity, apart from our feelings, it is worth taking time to just remember – remember how it felt – because the mind’s eye remembers best, and up here on the balcony I am overwhelmed by the feeling that it really did happen. And it changed everything.

What a year.

If you would like to see the Centre Court 360 for yourself, why not book a tour of the Grounds, or pop down to the Wimbledon Museum, open 10am to 5pm, Monday to Sunday...


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