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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Ellie Ng

Increased security checks reason for slow queue, Wimbledon organisers say

PA Wire

Wimbledon organisers have said that increased security checks – put in place over concerns about protests – made entry via the queue slower than it has been in previous years.

Fans took to Twitter on Monday afternoon to vent frustrations at the sluggish, and at some points static, queue.

Some hopeful spectators who have visited Wimbledon in previous years condemned the queue as being the “worst” they have ever seen.

A spokesperson for the All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) said there was “high demand” from queuers on Monday and thanked them for their “patience and understanding”.

They added: “Understandably, our security team on the gates are conducting an enhanced bag check operation.

“While there has been a steady stream of guests entering the Grounds since gates opened at 10am, entry via the Queue has been at a slower rate than in previous years as a result of these checks.”

The club’s chief executive, Sally Bolton, told reporters on Monday morning that security arrangements were boosted after climate change group Just Stop Oil disrupted the second Ashes test at Lord’s, the Gallagher Premiership rugby final at Twickenham and the World Snooker Championship.

She told journalists this included a “100% bag search” and “selective body search” at all gates – the latter of which will be conducted “on the basis of intelligence”.

Chalk dust or powder substances have also been banned this year and were not listed as prohibited items in 2022.

Organisers advised people via Twitter not to travel to join the queue just before noon.

Becky Deeming, a communications and events manager from London, said she was told by a steward that delays were the result of tighter security measures because of concerns over potential protests.

Ms Deeming told the PA news agency: “One of the stewards said that they were worried about protesters coming in after seeing protesters at the Ashes so they were doing extra bag searches for everyone.”The 29-year-old arrived to queue at 3.45am on Monday and got into the grounds at 1.15pm.

“There was no water, nowhere to sit, it was the longest queue,” she said.

“Everyone around us had done it multiple times and they said: ‘We have never seen it like this.’

People were getting up and leaving.”

Ms Deeming added that it was “such a bad experience” and it would put her off queuing in the future.

Filip Reha, who flew to London from the Czech Republic for the tournament, also said he heard delays were caused by security issues.

The 30-year-old told PA he has been to Wimbledon four times, before adding: “This is the worst time I’ve seen.”

Melissa Donaldson, 28, from Guildford in Surrey, said she and her friends had “co-ordinated around our calendars and had this planned for months” and was not sure “whether to even bother” in future.

She told PA: “I live in Surrey, was up at 5.30am, on a train by 6.30am and arrived at 8am. We didn’t move from our original spot in the queue for 5.5 hours. There was no communication from staff, no statements from Wimbledon.

“When it got to about 1pm, we were asking volunteer staff for updates but they didn’t have any updates for us either. I was number 9,898 in the queue and by 1pm I heard that they hadn’t even reached 3,000 so we left.

“I’ve been a tennis fan for decades, finally decided to commit to the event, and it was the worst queuing experience of my life. I’ve had four-hour flight delays that were better co-ordinated. It’s making us question whether to even bother for future years.”

Michelle Martin, from Sydney, told PA on Monday afternoon that she had not moved in the queue since 7.30am.

“This is where we started the queue,” the IT worker said.

“It’s very frustrating and disappointing.”

Ms Martin has come to spectate at Wimbledon eight or nine times in the past, and said she has never seen the queue in such a bad way.

Asked whether the AELTC expects a protest, Ms Bolton told reporters: “Of course we’ve taken account of what we’ve seen elsewhere, so security has been uplifted in various places around the grounds.”

She added: “We are really confident in the measures that we’ve taken but I think, as we’ve seen at other sporting events, we can’t guarantee anything – but we’re extremely confident that the measures we’ve got in place are the right measures and we are ready to deal with something if it happens.”

Ms Bolton also said the club is working with behavioural detection officers from the Metropolitan Police.

“They’re not a new thing this year. We have them every year. So again they’re part of our operation this year and in a slightly enhanced way and maybe looking for slightly different things than they would in any other year,” she said.

The Metropolitan Police said: “A policing operation is in place for The Championships, including both general and specialist officers, to prevent crime and disorder and to be able to provide an effective, timely response to any emerging incidents at the location and right across London.”

The blue skies and sunshine present early on Monday morning disappeared as south-west London was hit by lashings of rain in the afternoon, suspending play on some courts.

Britons Jodie Burrage and Liam Broady won their matches to secure places in the second round of the tournament.

Home fans will also be cheering for Katie Swan, Dan Evans and Jan Choinski on Monday.

Harriet Dart lost against Frenchwoman Diane Parry in what she has described as her “worst match” of the grass-court season.

The competition will run until July 16.

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