It was not the opening you’d ever see at The Championships. With jumbo speakers thudding, the Pet Shop Boys opened the Hill at Wimbledon (on hiatus from Henman Hill or Murray Mound, whichever it is called these days), to mark the beginning of the Olympic tennis at the All England Club.
To the surprise of hill-dwellers, who had grabbed spots on the benches opposite the big screen, big and black with exploding lightning graphics rather than big and green, the day began with a Flash Mob popping up around them and jumping around to all sorts of tunes, before the Pet Shop Boys thumped out ‘Always on my Mind’, ‘Olympic Written’ and ‘Inspired Winners.’ Something of a theme, clearly.
With the crowds visibly pepped up, if not by the music, certainly by the copious amounts of Cadbury’s and Coca Cola on offer, the Olympic tennis at Wimbledon was free to begin.
Adding to the aura of it being a grand day out was the presence of Michelle Obama, the First Lady, who took up residence in Serena Williams’ family box for the Wimbledon champion’s opening win over Jelena Jankovic. “I did know Michelle would be here,” Serena revealed. “They asked me did I mind if she sat in the family box. I was like, of course not. Please, it would be my honour. I mean, I love Michelle. I gave her a thumbs up just to acknowledged that I knew she was here.”
Obama then hot-footed it back to the Olympic park to watch the Lochte-Phelps face-off at the Aquatics Centre. The other famous face around the grounds was one becoming very familiar to the tennis world – Rory McIlroy. The Northern Irishman has been at Wimbledon for almost a week, having hot-footed it from the Open at Lytham to support girlfriend Caroline Wozniacki.
Perhaps one of the most popular attractions on the first day of the Olympic tennis was the hedge-made Olympic mascot, plonked right in the middle of the courtyard outside Gate 5. Spectators were spotted taking photos with the grassy figure all day, patting him on the rear, and taking an up-close look at his sweatbands, which many people actually thought were bracelets. Because one would obviously wear bracelets to play tennis.
It wasn’t the busiest day the All England Club has ever seen, with courts looking sparse, and it proving a whole lot easier to get around than it often is. But there was no shortage of support for a barn-storming doubles match between the Bryan brothers and Brazilians, both teams’ spectators battling to out-shout the other. It sounded fun.