You’ve come home from school one day only to find your house has been repainted, the locks have been changed, the furniture replaced and, no, those aren’t your parents, those are hired actors. But don’t worry, we’ve given them a dossier on your parents so you won’t notice the difference at all.
Basically, it doesn’t feel like home. You are now a stranger in a strangely familiar land.
That scenario isn’t all unlike what happened to players, press and fans who revisited the All England Club to take in some Olympic tennis this year. The more relaxed atmosphere called back memories of “People’s Monday,” where the wealthy ticket-holders who can dominate the Wimbledon crowd were replaced by young, rowdy tennis fans who would rather use their vocal chords than their hands to show their support. Instead of the All England Club, which has had 126 years of tournament organizing, the tournament was under the direction of the London Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (LOCOG).
The result was a bizarro Wimbledon, with an electric atmosphere that seemed to encourage the players to let loose and rock their irreverent side. And for better or worse, LOCOG was pretty darn irreverent too, though not intentionally.
Here are a few of the wackier moments from the Olympics that served to remind us not to be fooled by that greenish grass. This was certainly no Wimbledon.
The Royal Wave
On one hand, you have to laugh that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who were spotted in casual polo shirts and ballcaps at every other Olympic venue, felt the need to dress up to watch the tennis at the All England Club. That is totally Wimbledon-esque. But I had to rub my eyes and do a double-take when the cameras zoomed in on Kate and Will A) joining in with the crowd for the wave and B) sitting out on No. 1 Court for Andy Murray’s quarterfinal match against Nicolas Almagro. Andy Murray being placed on No. 1 Court? That happens at Wimbledon. The Royals sitting on No. 1 Court? Never.
Fancy a hug?
Speaking of Murray, after defeating Roger Federer in the gold-medal match, he climbed into his box Mats Wilander style to plant a smooch on his girlfriend and celebrate with his team, and when he was done he headed back to the court. At least, he thought he was done. An 11-year-old boy raced down from the stands and cried out to Murray for a hug. The kid got what he wanted as Murray stopped and came all the way for a quick embrace. Never would have happened at Wimbledon. No kid would have been so brash (and no steward would have ever let him through).
Serena’s post-match C-Walk
After serving an ace down the tee to put Maria Sharapova out of her misery, Serena Williams let loose a gold-medal celebration, one for which she’s getting heavily criticized. She roared, she hopped like a pogo stick, she shook hands and then she … C-Walked. Much to the delight of her box, Serena’s impromptu jig summed up the pure joy she felt upon finally winning a singles gold medal. Call me (maybe) crazy but I don’t think she pulls that move at Wimbledon.
Of course, Serena can’t seem to do anything without courting some controversy and her C-Walk dance — which stands for “Crip Walk,” a dance created by the Crips gang 40 years ago in Serena’s hometown of Compton, Calif. — ignited a minor firestorm. You can read some of the critiques here, here and here.
The criticisms seem to revolve around two points: A) By doing a gang-related dance (which has since gone completely mainstream and has appeared in Hollywood movies and suburban malls), Williams was making light of, or even encouraging, gang violence, and B) Williams was disrespecting the “Cathedral of Tennis” that is Centre Court at Wimbledon, because how dare you do a hip-hop dance in front of the Royal Box. Or something. Let’s take this one at a time.
Serena making light of gang violence? Can this charge really be levied against a woman whose own sister, Yetunde Price, was gunned down by a Crips gang member in 2006? That’s utterly ridiculous. As for whether rockin’ the C-Walk on Centre Court was some kind of social faux pas, that just plays into the long-standing perception of tennis as being a sport for the tea-and-crumpet crowd. The woman just won a singles gold medal, something that had eluded her, and she did it thumping fashion in beating one of her more famous rivals, the one she created on this court eight years ago when she lost to a 17-year-old Sharapova. That win made Maria a star, a multimillion-dollar marketing empire, and Serena’s never forgotten it. She was happy. She danced.
After losing to Williams in the fourth round of the U.S. Open last year, Ana Ivanovic said Serena was an intimidating presence. Naturally, reporters asked her about it.
“Yeah. I walk out there, do the Crip walk and try to intimidate them,” she said, laughing. “No, I don’t try. I just am. I am who I am. I don’t know whether that’s intimidating or not. I am just me.”
Serena was just being Serena. In a world where Ryan Lochte can wear diamond grillz on the medal stand, President Barack Obama can brush the dirt off his shoulders and 100-meter sprinters can preen and posture before and after their races, sometimes a gesture is just a gesture that doesn’t need to be reduced to its singular origins. Sometimes a dance is just a dance. Leave it alone.
Flying the flag
“Gave proof through the night, that our flag was still … whoops!”
What is it with flags and the Olympics this year? First LOCOG flashes the wrong Korean flag during a soccer game, nearly causing an international incident, and here it can’t seem to secure the darn things to the poles. Never would happen at Wimbledon. Mainly because Wimbledon would never have a flag-raising ceremony, not even if Andy Murray won.
Kobe Bryant in the Centre Court stands to watch Federer take on Juan Martin del Potro? That could happen at Wimbledon. Kobe Bryant whipping out a pro-DSLR camera with telephoto lens to snap pics alongside fans and photographers? Yeah, I’m going to go ahead and say that would never happen at Wimbledon.
Hey, quit it!
As Steve Tignor wrote, Murray and Laura Robson are as close a thing we have in tennis of a big brother/little sister combination. So what would a precocious 18-year-old do to her 25 year-old gold-medal-winning partner during their mixed doubles medal ceremony? Act like an 18-year-old, of course, and pester him as much as possible. Never would happen at Wimbledon. That place is way too serious.
Anyone? Anyone? … Bueller?
Empty seats throughout the nine-day event were more of an eyesore than the purple signage that enveloped the grounds. LOCOG claimed the tickets had either been sold or reserved for dignitaries who never showed up. Never would happen at Wimbledon, where the grounds are teeming with people who wouldn’t give up their seats for all the strawberry and cream in the world.