“Give Eastbourne’s tennis chief the freedom of the city” – thoughts on Viking International
In this year hit by the Covid, the obstacles had been sizeable. The greatly reduced number of spectators will have an impact on finances, both for the organizers and for outlets such as catering. Security protocols imposed a strange, somewhat anxious regime – tedious but necessary. We journalists found ourselves filling out health declarations at 6 a.m. every morning, or being literally turned away. The new normal? Oh, for a bit of the old normal….
The spectators quickly learned to improvise. Officially you booked your ticket, showed up on time and you were shown your assigned seat, and you stayed there. Officially. But, in the absence this year of these coveted passes, punters soon realized that on the way to the coffee stand there was still a chance to safely wander and mingle.
Courtesy of each other, always finding a large open space to be perfectly safe against Covid, the locals still created a fair imitation of the usual hustle and bustle of Devonshire Park.
Technically, two or three of the outdoor courts were masked – but with clever positioning, spectators found ways to see the action – half of one court and two-thirds of the other.
It was a bit like buying one of those restricted-vision seats in the theater, where you can’t quite see the far left of the stage, but the price is an absolute bargain. Well done for the improvisation guys!
Perversely, on our wonderful Sunshine Coast, the weather has chosen not to play ball. Just a few warm and very pleasant days, in the middle of the week, were marked by cooler gray days – and all of Monday was wasted in the pouring rain.
I found myself remembering a walk in 2020 through Devonshire Park under a blazing sun on a Saturday in June which would have been the day of last year’s final. Welcome to the British summer.
Still no drama and no crisis: the organizers conducted the week imperturbably.
Are they still doing these Freedom of the Town awards? Next, Gavin Fletcher should receive a special letter on classy letterhead.
The tournament director is actually not a man to stand on the ceremony. He is pragmatic, practical and straightforward. But inside is a passion for this event.
Depending on our maddening coastal weather, Gavin can be spotted in short sleeves or full North Sea trawler gear. Depending on the state of the game, he may frown or be relaxed.
But he leads from the front, is accessible to all, and takes the whole tournament on his broad shoulders.
Gavin can call on the best of the teams. From the affable head gardener Danny Negus to the young immaculate ball teams, everyone plays a part. So many locals donate a week of their time – earning three times nothing in the process – as stewards.
Personally, I have never walked the length of College Road, and the grounds, without an endless hello and hello.
Old friend Tony, a traffic cop and also an Eastbourne Borough FC loyalist, was there so infallibly he must have had a sleeping bag stuck under a hedge somewhere. New friends Florence and Sarah, freshly graduated – what to do with a BA in English?, As this musical number of Avenue Q says – but using their interpersonal skills to direct the spectators lost on center court.
Faithful Steward Gerry, who has brought his genius and avuncular supervision to Court Two over the past two decades and more. You can keep Covid at bay behind a face cover, but you can’t hide a genuine, friendly smile.
This is the week Eastbourne sports its proudest and most welcoming face of the year.
By the way – and it sounds rude to moan – but if I could change one thing about the Devonshire Park tournament, I would ban those security guys from wearing black.
Yes, we need good security, but give the contract to a company that will ban their staff from wearing dark glasses – unless the sun is blinding.
Branding them, if you like. Put them in sleek green suits in place of the humorless black – or better, outfit them in those multi-striped blazers people wear at Lord’s festivals or bowls.
Once you get past their grim exteriors, they are perfectly nice people – I will long cherish, for example, my daily conversations with Michael, poignantly telling me about his friend and former army comrade who lost his life there. a few weeks.
True heroes are usually unrecognized and unnoticed. We only spot a linesman when there is a rare contentious appeal. We only notice ball teams if – incredibly rarely – a youngster drops a ball or rolls it the wrong way. The students – from Eastbourne College, Cavendish School and a few from the sadly closed Moira House – were phenomenal.
At one game, I had a privileged folding seat on the court, terribly close to the action, and next to me sat a young man with his knee in a huge brace. Torn ligaments weren’t going to stop young Reuben – whose twin sister Freya and brother Ethan were also on the team.
Eastbourne’s tennis week is special and unique. It will surely regain all its splendor in June 2022. The only problem: what will we do for the next 51 weeks?