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Strawberries and cream and other Wimbledon traditions and facts

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What is the first British summer tradition that comes into mind? Did you think strawberries and cream? And of course, you cannot think strawberries and cream and not immediately think of Wimbledon, too. Here’s a list of interesting facts and traditions about the tournament.

The Wimbledon Championship is the oldest tennis tournament in the world (1877) and arguably the most prestigious. Part of the Grand Slam, alongside the US Open, the Australian Open and The French Open. Initially all four were played on grass courts, but both Australian and US Open have moved on to hard courts, whereas the French play on clay. Wimbledon, all set in its ways, remains the only one of the four to play on grass (hence lawn tennis).

It seems like rain is also part of the Wimbledon tradition. It is not at all surprising, Britain has a rainy reputation. What is surprising though, is the fact that all Wimbledon courts remain open air and it wasn’t until 2009 a retractable roof was installed to prevent lost play time due to weather conditions. It seems all rather late, considering that in a 145-year history there have been 5 Wimbledon tournaments with no rain: in 1878, 1903, 1908, 1949 and 1993. This year, to nobody’s surprise, we’ve had rain.

During World War II, 5 bombs hit Centre Court, destroying 1,200 seats. It took 9 years to fully restore it and it can now hold 15,000 fans. Much bigger and with more comfortable seats, too.

The most popular food consumed by the tennis fans and players during Wimbledon are by far strawberries and cream. Some say the tradition of serving strawberries began in 1953 and the cream was added in 1970.  But other sources state that strawberries were served ever since the first Wimbledon in 1877. It is strawberries and tennis that signal the arrival of summer. At Wimbledon, nearly 9,000 servings are prepared per day, using only the highest quality locally grown strawberries from Kent. Each year at Wimbledon, 28,000 kg of strawberries are eaten along with 10,000 litres of cream. And that’s just at Wimbledon. Surely anyone watching the games on a screen at home is eating a portion of strawberries and cream, too.

Let’s not forget about the Wimbledon fashion. Or shall we say uniform? The players are only allowed to dress all in white. This rule has been in place since the very beginning of Wimbledon and has gone even stricter over the years. This includes added regulations regarding undergarments: any coloured undergarments that either are or can be visible during play (including due to perspiration) are not permitted. Even the shade of white matters, as cream or off-white would not be allowed.

All the officials, including umpires, linesmen and all ball boys and girls, were dressed in green up until 2006. The idea was that they blend in better on a grass court and are almost invisible. Their dress code changed for the first time in 2006, when the club approached American designer Ralph Lauren for designing all the official outfits in navy blue and cream.

As for spectators, there is no official Wimbledon dress code beyond a few forbidden items: no ripped jeans, running vests, dirty sneakers, or sport shorts. And luckily, all colours allowed.

Wimbledon does not have any sponsor advertising around the courts. The Club has always sought to retain the unique image and character of the Championships by not overtly commercializing the grounds. Even the main sponsors, including Rolex and Slazenger, have very discreet brand placement.

Most of the British players have unfortunately lost their games, but we are still watching with excitement, enjoying fresh strawberries and cream, anticipating sunny weather for this year’s finals. May the best player win!