Last week I decided to spend an afternoon in the sunshine down in Wimbledon. This area of London, a short bus ride from my house, is famously host to the Wimbledon Tennis championships, and on that day, this years tournament was just a few days old.
Predictably then, when I arrived, the streets around the station were buzzing with activity. A reggae guitarist (who later-on inexplicably – if impressively – shifted into a medley of Led Zeppelin songs) was first to greet you as you left the concourse. Then there were massive screens erected for those without tickets streaming the most important contests of the day.
Americans – of course – were everywhere. I can tell an American in London from quite some distance away. They’re often smiling in a way which reveals glowing, strenuously brushed teeth. Both the smile and the dental hygiene are clangingly out of place around here. Some also wear white shorts, an unfortunate trend developed no doubt in a much warmer climate.
I’m really not a sporty kind of guy. I smoke too much, excercise too little, and have no intention to change. Nevertheless I really enjoy the carnival spirit of major sporting events like these. To be around young and old people enjoying something communal and free, various and liberal, especially draped in almost Californian sunshine, can hardly fail to be uplifting.
Still, after a brief moment of positivity, politics recommences to ruining everything….
Along from the dreadlocked musician and past a food-sampling stall, there was another large stand, this one draped in the flag of the Palestinians. I should have walked right past it but temptation got the better of me and I moved closer to browse the leaflets on the table. Apart from a few dodgy looking screeds advertising the specific Palestinian complaint – most of them were recommending conversion to the Islamic faith.
Further down, into the (grimier) commercial areas of Wimbledon, I found another street-proselytizer haranguing passers-by with Qur’anic passages. He was dressed in flowing white garments and had a short, patchy beard. He had all the appearance of an African convert (like the killer of Lee Rigby) and was clearly invested with great passion.
You might say I shouldn’t be surprised or annoyed by these things by now. And true enough, they don’t ‘shock’ me anymore.
What got to me on this occasion though was that some American and other foreign tourists must have gone away from Wimbledon (the most quintessentially British sporting event in the world) believing that Britain is no longer leaning towards the West, but veering away from it. The Palestinian display was one of the first and last things a tourist to Wimbledon would have seen that day. I felt (and still feel) very embarrassed by it.
Why allow for Wimbledon to be politicized at all? And if has to be politicized, where was the Zionist display to balance things out?
Maybe next year, whoever grants permission to demonstrators will be somewhat more responsible, and the most important English festivals will remain off-limits to the general decay.