© Ella Ling

Wimbledon picture

Tennis players excluded from the Olympic private party


Without wanting to trivialise the Olympic Games, is the London traffic going to ruin the off-court party for single tennis players?

It was Matthew Syed, a former British table tennis player, who once described the Olympic Village as “a sex fest” where it is common to see the athletes “sh—— like crazy”. “Most of the athletes I know are as up for it before and during competition as they are in the competition.” One female Olympian, the American footballer Hope Solo, has disclosed that at the Beijing Games she saw athletes “getting down and dirty right out in the open, on the grass, between buildings”. Another athlete, the American swimming gold medallist Nelson Diebel, has called the Games “a two-week-long private party for thousands of hard bodies”.

It is a private party that most tennis players are going to find themselves excluded from. Most players have opted to stay in Wimbledon Village rather than the Athletes Village during the Games. One reason is that the players want to keep the same routine as during The Wimbledon Championships – indeed, some are renting out the same properties they had during the grand slam. Another reason is that they feel as though the commute from east London would be too long; so they’re staying out in the south west of the city, in buttoned-up SW19. Syed disclosed that at the 1992 Barcelona Games he “got laid more often in those two and a half weeks than in the rest of my life up to that point” – it’s those sort of stories which tennis players are going to have to hear second hand.

It is easy to snigger at the idea of Olympic hedonism – and the fact that 150,000 free condoms will be given out to athletes during the Games. But it should be remembered that long-term romances sometimes start in the Athletes Village. Consider, for example, that Roger Federer first kissed his future wife Mirka at the 2000 Sydney Games. Wimbledon Village is a lovely place, but no one has ever described it as a private party for thousands of hard bodies.

Rafael Nadal’s withdrawal means that all four of the singles finalists from Beijing will be absent from the London Games. Elena Dementieva, the women’s gold medallist, has retired, as has runner-up Dinara Safina and men’s silver medallist Fernando Gonzalez.

The hardest working man in showbusiness? That will be Rufus the Hawk, the bird who was stolen from a parked car and then recovered during the Wimbledon Championships and who will be back at the All England Club during the Olympics to keep the pigeons away. According to a report by the Bloomberg news agency, he is needed at Wimbledon as the local pigeons discovered that the grass courts were being reseeded for the Olympics. Each day of the Games he will do a couple of sweeps of the grounds. It makes you wonder whether the Olympic tennis tournament could have gone ahead if the hostage situation had not ended earlier this summer.