he Wimbledon queue has been condemned by fans as the “worst” they have ever seen, as organisers warned new arrivals that they were highly unlikely to enter the grounds.
The blue skies and sunshine present early on Monday morning disappeared as south-west London was hit by lashings of rain in the afternoon, suspending play on some courts.
Organisers advised people not to travel to join the queue just before noon.
Wimbledon tweeted: “Our grounds are set to be at capacity today, which means those already in the queue will be waiting several hours for admission. We advise people intending to queue today not to travel to Wimbledon.”
Becky Deeming, a communications and events manager from London, said she was told by a steward that delays were the result of tighter security measures because of concerns over potential protests.
Organisers had said that security arrangements at Wimbledon were boosted after climate change group Just Stop Oil disrupted the second Ashes test at Lord’s, the Gallagher Premiership rugby final at Twickenham and the World Snooker Championship.
Ms Deeming told the PA news agency: “One of the stewards said that they were worried about protesters coming in after seeing protesters at the Ashes so they were doing extra bag searches for everyone.”
The 29-year-old arrived to queue at 3.45am on Monday and got into the grounds at 1.15pm.
“There was no water, nowhere to sit, it was the longest queue,” she said.
“Everyone around us had done it multiple times and they said: ‘We have never seen it like this.’
“People were getting up and leaving.”
She said she queued for Wimbledon in 2018 and got into the grounds in a much shorter amount of time.
Ms Deeming added that it was “such a bad experience” and it would put her off queuing in the future.
Filip Reha, who flew to London from the Czech Republic for the tournament, also said he heard delays were caused by security issues.
The 30-year-old told PA he has been to Wimbledon four times, before adding: “This is the worst time I’ve seen. Normally we went here around 8am in the morning and got inside around 12.30pm.
“This time it’s terrible.”
Michelle Martin, from Sydney, told PA she has not moved in the queue since 7.30am.
“This is where we started the queue,” the IT worker said.
“It’s very frustrating and disappointing.”
Ms Martin has come to spectate at Wimbledon eight or nine times in the past, and said she has never seen the queue in such a bad way.
Her friend Naheed Tapya, from London, added: “I think it’s really poor that there’s been no information because you can’t make any informed decisions.”
Speaking about increased security, AELTC chief executive Sally Bolton told reporters: “Of course we’ve taken account of what we’ve seen elsewhere, so security has been uplifted in various places around the grounds.”
She added: “We are really confident in the measures that we’ve taken but I think, as we’ve seen at other sporting events, we can’t guarantee anything – but we’re extremely confident that the measures we’ve got in place are the right measures and we are ready to deal with something if it happens.”
She told journalists there is “100% bag search” and “selective body search” at all gates – the latter of which will be conducted “on the basis of intelligence”.
Ms Bolton also said the club is working with behavioural detection officers from the Metropolitan Police.
“They’re not a new thing this year. We have them every year. So again they’re part of our operation this year and in a slightly enhanced way and maybe looking for slightly different things than they would in any other year,” she said.
Chalk dust or powder substances have been banned this year and were not listed as prohibited items in 2022, according to organisers.
Cable ties, glue, chains and padlocks are also listed as banned items.
The website makes it clear that visitors with any banned item “may be refused entry or ejected from the grounds” and any items surrendered as a condition of entry cannot be reclaimed.
Spectators were urged to pack raincoats and umbrellas and brace for scattered showers.
Warnings had also been issued around potential disruption to travel as Aslef said last month its members would withdraw non-contractual overtime with 16 of the country’s 35 rail operators for six days from Monday.
Home fans have six British players to cheer for on the first day of the tournament – Dan Evans, Jodie Burrage, Katie Swan, Jan Choinski, Harriet Dart and Liam Broady.
The competition will run until July 16.