Wimbledon Tennis 1999

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 July, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 July, 1999, 12:00am

Yesterday we celebrated the setting of the sun on the British Empire. Today we savour what remains of Britain's international greatness - its All England Lawn Tennis And Croquet Club and the Royal family who grace the Centre Court with their presence.

Britain traditionally holds herself high in this first week of July, even though it no longer often musters sports men and women good enough to match those from many a former colony and various lesser East European nations on its hallowed Centre Court. Tim Henman apart, it is left to the impeccable behaviour of its ball boys and girls, the presence of Her Royal Highness The Duchess Of Kent, the restrained appreciation of the spectators and the pleasures of strawberries and cream, plus the wonderful sight of 21,000 petunias, 3,500 hydrangeas and 13,000 geraniums decorating the grounds, to reaffirm what we love about England. All this contrasts gloriously with the gruelling physical and psychological warfare on the courts and the occasional outburst of unacceptable temper and rudeness. That, plus years and years of history are what make Wimbledon supposedly more special than other Grand Slam occasions.

Tonight, Hong Kong viewers should join those in much of the rest of the world in enjoying the ladies' singles finals, live, in Wimbledon Tennis 1999 (Pearl, 8.55pm). Of course, the magic of Wimbledon is so often knocked out of court by rain, and has been again this year. Who knows whether we will be watching the finals, semi-finals, men or women, or merely recorded highlights.

Earlier in the day, viewers get another insight into Britain's glory in The Firm (World, 3.10pm), a portrait of the royal family. This was made at the time of its lowest ebb, post Princess Diana. Although it acknowledges that today's royals can no longer take their right to rule for granted, it seems to have been made to bolster our understanding and respect for this institution.

Apart from the information it gives us about the crown jewels and the details of the family's finances, The Firm, as the Queen (above) calls the family, is quite superficial. It portrays the royal family when they are at their best, on public duty, engendering plenty of smiles and international friendship, but makes the scantest of references to the affairs that have rocked it through the centuries. There is just one shot of Camilla Parker-Bowles, but nothing about the goings on of Edward VIII, Edward VII or Princess Margaret. Instead, it is left to the Queen to appear at her most queenly, preserving a British institution in the face of a series of disasters.