Olympics-Wimbledon begins London 2012 makeover
LONDON, July 10
LONDON, July 10 (Reuters) - Even before Andy Murray's Centre Court tears have dried, the All England Club is being transformed from its traditional Wimbledon championships guise into a London 2012 Olympics venue.
The London 2012 Organising Committee (LOCOG) took control of the world's most famous tennis courts on Tuesday, 18 days before players such as Wimbledon champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams and runner-up Murray begin battling for gold medals.
Already, the dark green canvas backstops on the outside courts have been replaced with the purple brand of London 2012, complete with Olympic rings, while the club's groundstaff are busy restoring the lawns after their two-week battering during the rain-hit championships which ended on Sunday.
"This is a milestone in the whole process," former British player Clare Wood, the tennis competition manager, told Reuters on Tuesday. "We will be based there from Thursday and the players arrive on Monday so it is really a very, very short turnaround time."
The Olympic tennis event, which was held at the All England Club's previous site in 1908, will begin on July 28 and last nine days. There will be medals in men's and women's singles and doubles and, for the first time since Paris 1924, mixed doubles.
With 64-strong singles draws, 32 pairs in the men's and women's doubles and 16 mixed doubles pairs, it means a busy schedule on 12 playing courts, rather than the 19 used at the Wimbledon championships.
Centre Court's roof and lights will mean that some play will always be possible, but organisers and groundstaff will be casting anxious glances to the skies over the next few weeks.
"We have a contingency day on the Monday after (Aug. 6) and if we are behind we can use that but we don't want to be going too far into the second week," Wood, who played for Britain in the Seoul, Barcelona and Atlanta Games, said.
"As you can see from Wimbledon it's always miraculous how they manage to catch up.
"We do have the roof but if it rained heavily in the first few days when we need to get through the bulk of the matches we would struggle because we don't have so many days in hand as they do at the championships.
"But all our matches are best of three sets, apart from the men's singles final, so we can get through the matches quicker."
Neil Stubley, the man responsible for preparing the courts, is confident they will be in great shape.
"The big question is how can you turn it round in 20 days," he said during the championships.
"Our answer to everybody is that this process has been going for over two years. What we have in place now, we know it works.
"The only thing that could potentially hinder us would be temperature but it would have to be one of those one-in-100-years of the coldest summers on record."
Unlike in Beijing four years ago, all the tickets for the tennis are sold, with capacity set at 30,000, lower than during the Wimbledon tournament.
There will be none of the traditional queues, however.
"Everybody inside will be a ticket holder," said Wood. (Editing by Clare Fallon)
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