The bottom line

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 April, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 03 April, 2006, 12:00am

It seems that all those years of watching sport, rather than playing it, has finally caught up with Londoners. The annual delight of Pimms cocktails and strawberries and cream has taken its toll on tennis fans who flock to Wimbledon. After 129 championships, the All England Tennis Club has decreed that the seats are too small for the expanding British bottom. After all, one in four Britons is now clinically obese.

At 42cm wide, you would think there was ample room to perch on each seat. But no. The club, in southwest London, plans to widen each one by 4cm, to 46cm, after a deluge of complaints from spectators at last year's tournament. Apparently, officials were horrified to find that some Centre Court pews were half the width of most planes' economy-class seats.

Football fans seem to be suffering from a similar problem: officials at the new Wembley Stadium, which is still under construction, announced last week that they felt compelled to fit 50cm-wide seats, up 9cm from those at the old stadium. To give you an idea of scale, the average toilet seat is 38cm wide. That is ample, some would say - although not for Queen Elizabeth: her throne is 95cm wide.

Still, if you had been to a Premiership football match recently, you would know of the need for extra cheek room. Fans are about as svelte as they are polite to the opposing team, but most seating is still compact, to put it mildly. Leg room, too, is miserly, with fans likely to get a knee in the back of the neck (and no referee to cry, 'Foul!').

As rules demand that Premiership football fans sit down, clubs should perhaps follow the Football Association's lead at Wembley. Instead, they are always trying to squeeze more bums on seats, especially, it seems, at West Ham United's Upton Park ground in east London, where an opposing team's fans appear physically joined at the hip.

The same is true of London buses. Seat width on new ones, especially the controversial red 'bendy buses' - the over-long vehicles that bend in the middle, like a concertina - is shrinking (although you are lucky to get a seat at all). Such buses allow for more standing, not more seating. Seats on modern double-decker buses are also noticeably narrower, and much more uncomfortable - some operators have taken to removing the padding, saving weight and thus shaving costs.

Britons' expanding bottoms have not gone unnoticed by designers, either. Senator, a leading UK office-chair manufacturer, is redesigning its basic lines, boosting the spread of its seats.

But perhaps the answer lies not in accommodating bigger bottoms on wider seats, but encouraging people to get off theirs and lose weight in the first place. Only then, perhaps, can we can all sit comfortably.




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