LONDON (Reuters) - Proud of its age-old traditions, Wimbledon has embraced the rapid changes in technology in recent years as smoothly as a Roger Federer forehand and now the world’s most prestigious tennis tournament is going 3D.
Ian Ritchie, chief executive of the All England Club in the leafy suburbs of south west London since 2005, has presided over a stunning transformation of the grounds and Monday he announced that fans across the world would be able to watch this year’s championships in 3D vision at home and in cinemas.
In partnership with Sony and host broadcaster the BBC, this year’s men’s singles semi-finals and men’s and women’s finals will be filmed in 3D and beamed to around 600 suitable cinemas around the globe as well as to national broadcasters.
While famous for its strict white clothing rules, strawberries and cream and ivy-clad balconies, Wimbledon has managed to move swiftly with the times.
Ritchie, whose background is in television, said that should come as no surprise.
“Starting way back, the first ever transmission in color the BBC put out was from Wimbledon so we were innovators then,” he told Reuters Monday.
“Now there is an opportunity to expand into 3D broadcasts and it’s very exciting. But as far as we are concerned it’s that classic combination of tradition and innovation.
“Technically we like to be at the forefront of things and 3D is going to be a very interesting feature, not just for broadcasters but for cinemagoers around the world too,” added Ritchie.
“Not everyone can be here during the championships so it’s another opportunity for fans to feel a bit closer to the action.
“We see ourselves as the best tennis event in the world but we want to be seen as one of the best sporting events. If you stand still you fall behind.”
Ritchie, responsible for securing multi-million pounds broadcasting deals with the BBC and American company NBC, is approaching his busiest time of the year with Wimbledon less than four months away.
A new addition for the 2011 tournament will be a Court Three showcourt — the completion of which concludes a 10-year improvement program that included a revamped Center Court complete with sliding roof, a new bull-ring type Court Two and the introduction of HawkEye technology.
Ritchie reeled off impressive statistics about 11 million hits on the tournament website last year and the launch of a smartphone application that has one million users.
However, while he welcomes the gizmos Ritchie is happy some things remain the same — at least until the Olympics take over the hallowed turf for a week in 2012.
“Yes, the white clothing rule will be relaxed and our strict advertising rules,” he said. “They can wear multi-colored clothing, whatever they want to wear. It’s their event.
“It will look quite different and it will be an interesting experience for the players because usually they just come here once a year but in 2012 they’ll be back two weeks later. It will be interesting how they cope with that.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez