Most of the tennis players competing at the Olympics ought to seriously consider skipping Danny Boyle’s Isles of Wonder, otherwise known as the Opening Ceremony. Not because they object to Boyle’s artistic vision, because they don’t like the idea of the chickens, the sheep, the horses and the mocked-up mosh pits. Or because they want to stay away from the village cricket team, the troupe of National Health Service nurses or the world’s largest harmonically-tuned bell.
The reason for staying away is that the Ceremony is due to run from 9pm on Friday until 12.30am, and the tennis tournament begins on Saturday. Soon after the draw is made on Thursday, we should have a fair idea about who is going to be scheduled to play on the opening day of the tennis at the All England Club. And there are better ways to prepare for a tournament than standing around for three hours, and until beyond midnight, with some farmyard animals while listening to Underworld.
It is unlikely that any player staying in Wimbledon Village – as a lot of them seem to be – would be able to get back to their rented house much before 2am. Even those due to play on Sunday should think about watching the chickens and the nurses on television, rather than from the track of the Olympic Stadium. One player has already said that she will be looking at Saturday’s order of play before deciding whether to go to the party on Friday: “We’re here for one role and that’s to do the best for our country, and if that means we’re going to have to skip the Opening Ceremony, then that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Those who have the honour of carrying their country’s flags are plainly not now going to skip the Ceremony, but if they end up turning in some tired, dismal performances over the weekend and lose they may wonder why they came to London: for the culture and the flag-waving or for the chance to win a medal.
Who knew that the late Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, almost became a professional tennis player? Ride’s obituaries have disclosed that Billie Jean King once tried to persuade her to leave university to play on the tour. Ride didn’t take King’s advice and became an astronaut instead.
In less surprising news, Forbes magazine have said that Roger Federer, whose annual earnings are north of 54 million dollars, is the highest-paid Olympian. Tennis dominates the Olympic money list, with seven of the top 20.