Wimbledon organizers will waive their all-white clothing rule for players and re-seed the grass courts at the All England Club for the 2012 Olympic tennis tournament.
“Players will not be required to wear tennis whites,” Debbie Jevans, director of sport at the London 2012 organizing committee, said at a press conference at the club today. “They can wear what is their Olympic outfit.”
Wimbledon is the only one of tennis’s four Grand Slam tournaments that asks competitors to wear predominantly white clothing.
“It reflects that it’s an Olympic event,” Ian Ritchie, the club’s chief executive officer, said of the change in an interview after the press conference. “It was an easy thing to agree to, because it’s a recognition that it’s someone else’s event.”
The Olympic tennis tournament will be played from July 28 to Aug. 5, starting nine days after the annual Grand Slam event finishes. The nine grass courts to be used during the Olympics will be re-seeded immediately after the last ball is struck at the championships.
“Wimbledon’s chief grounds man, Eddie Seaward, has tested the grounds,” Jevans said. “They reseeded the grass after the end of this year’s Wimbledon on July 8. By July 22, the grass had recovered. The courts will be in top shape for the Games in 2012.”
Tennis was one of the original nine Olympic sports in Athens in 1896. It was withdrawn after the 1924 Paris Games and came back as a demonstration event in 1984 in Los Angeles.
It returned as a full medal sport in Seoul in 1988, when Steffi Graf became the only player to complete the “Golden Slam” of all four major titles and the Olympics in the same year. Wimbledon also hosted the Olympic tennis tournament in 1908.
The London Games start July 27 and organizers expect 26,000 visitors a day during the nine-day tennis competition, which will also include an Olympic mixed-doubles competition for the first time. Wimbledon officials hope the Olympics will give the sport’s popularity a further boost.
“There will be a great interest in this because Wimbledon is heavily oversubscribed every year,” Ritchie said. “It might open up a new, different audience for us.”