Wimbledon increases security in a year which saw a series of terrorist attacks
Vehicle barriers along the roads around the All England Club were the most noticeable changes as Wimbledon began on Monday under beefed-up security after a series of attacks around London in recent months.
Richard Lewis, the club’s chief executive, said most of the new measures were “below the radar.” Among the changes visible to spectators and players at the tournament were the installation of the waist-high black barricades around the outside of the grounds and the presence of armed officers at each gate.
“(The blockers) have been put in based on recommendations of the security services for obvious reasons because of recent terrorist attacks,” Lewis said.
Security has become a greater concern in England in recent months. A man drove into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in March, killing four and fatally stabbing a police officer outside Westminster Palace. Last month, attackers used a vehicle and knives to kill eight people and wound dozens on London Bridge and in nearby Borough Market, and in a separate incident, a man drove into people spilling out mosques in the Finsbury Park neighbourhood after Ramadan services.
“We have taken into account the threat level and those awful terrorist attacks that have taken place, and as a result, we have put together a proportionate policing plan with a significant number of resources to support the club to deliver a really safe secure competition this year,” Metropolitan Police superintendent Jo Edwards said, according to Britain’s Press Association.
The vehicle barriers lined Church Road, the main public approach to the grounds, between Gate 1 and Gate 5. Bomb-sniffing dogs also were present throughout the complex, with several of them searching outside Gate 20, where broadcast trucks enter the compound, on Monday morning.
That security presence extended far outside the grounds as well, with a half-dozen police officers and stewards in high-visibility vests congregating outside Southfields, a London Underground station approximately 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) away.
The tournament released a statement on its website last month to outline its partnership with the Metropolitan Police and facilitate screenings. Fans line up for hours before play begins to secure a ticket for the day, and Lewis said there is no plan to end that tradition for security reasons.
Organisers did take the rare step, however, of cutting off the line on Sunday, which Lewis said was because the demand for tickets was so high.
“So many people enjoy queuing,” he said. “I don’t think it will ever be unsustainable, but it’s a victim of its own success at the moment.”
Player safety is also something about which organisers wish to remain vigilant. Three-time champion Novak Djokovic said on Saturday, shortly after defeating Gael Monfils to win at Eastbourne, that Wimbledon’s intimacy is part of its appeal and that interacting with fans “gives you good energy and good vibes.”
On Monday, when Donald Young arrived to play in the tournament for the seventh time, he thought the lines at the gates seemed to be longer than normal.
“The extra security checks, it’s a little hassle, but you wouldn’t rather anything else,” he said. “It makes you feel comfortable and you can go about your business like a regular day.”