I have just arrived at The NZ Festival of Tennis, and the atmosphere here, rather than the games, is what I would like to write about. Because by just discussing the games, you do not take into account the natural and cultural environment of the event. Or you only do so to an extent, because obviously if the court temperature is really hot, then some players can get affected by it worse than some others. But tennis events are obviously about more than just the players, they are also about the crowd, the organizers and the volunteers. So in this article I am going to have a look at these groups and how they are operating at this event.
Obviously there are two distinct types of crowd; on the one hand there is the general spectators, and on the other hand are the corporate bunch. I will start with the general spectators, who are right now it seems, baking in the heat of the stands, waving their fans or whatever they can in their face to cool down. The on-court temperature at the tennis in Auckland is reguarly around 30 degrees Celsius. And so it is always a must to have a lot of sunblock on hand, and a hat. It is also noticeable in the crowd that a lot of people have a cold drink on hand. This combination of sunblock, hats, and cold drinks is the ingredient that cuts to the core of New Zealand’s annual tennis event. The tennis events Down-Under at the beginning of every year are all about the unbearable heat. This heat ingredient is much more prevalent in Australia than in neighboring New Zealand. But the heat in NZ is still a factor at the tennis. And for the crowd it is mostly a factor that adds to the events enjoyment. Spectating at the ASB Classic and Heineken Open is now seen as an important part of the Kiwi summer, and baking in the sun is all part of the fun of the event. On the most part the crowd laps it up, and loves it in the process.
The corporate crowd are much like the general spectators in that they lap up the heat of the event, they enjoy their cold drinks, and they revel in the high fashion. Although right now, they are not dressed up like the spectators in the stands, especially in the hat department. Perhaps this is a result of the fact that they are under the cover of sail shades. Nevertheless, they are lapping it up in enjoying the event, and no doubt their complementary drinks, to their full extent. To sum up the mood and culture among the spectators, it is a culture of mutual enjoyment and genuine interest in the tennis on display. I am sure that every spectator here today, whether corporate or otherwise, are fans of the game. And it is this factor of love of the game that brings everyone together and creates a spectator culture of laid back enjoyment and fun.
The next group I would like to discuss are the volunteers. These are the ball boys and girls, and the people who help out at the event. Like the spectators they would not be here unless they were genuine fans of the game. They are here in many ways out of a factor of genuine interest in the sport. But what is the distinct difference between them and the fans is that they have work to do. This adds an element of seriousness to the culture among the volunteers. They cannot be laid-back like the spectators, they actually have to be on task. The ball boys and girls have to be watchful of the action, and have to be quick when they are required to get a loose ball. The volunteers ushering people through the gates have to be on task to make sure that everyone walking through the gates has proper tickets and/or proper accreditation to come into the event. So the culture among the volunteers is one, like the spectators, of mutual enjoyment, but it also must be one of seriousness. They have to be focused, and they have to keep on task.
The final crowd I would like to discuss today are the organizers and PR people of the event, who combine elements of both the spectators and the volunteers. Like the spectators, they would not be doing what they are doing without being fans of the game. But even more so than the volunteers, there is a definite level of seriousness among them. And rightfully so, because without them the event just wouldn’t happen, or wouldn’t get promoted. This includes people like the PR directors, the Media and the Tournament Director. The Tournament Director here, Karl Budge, has been facing some trouble this week as many of the top draw players have pulled out. I have just come out of the press conference where one of his top draw players, Tommy Robredo, pulled out of the tournament mid-week. During the conference Karl was quite noticeably upset about losing yet another of his top players; because the withdraw of Robredo was after the earlier withdrawls of John Isner, David Ferrer, and Gael Monfils. In truth, during that press conference, I felt a bit sorry for Karl. He has put on a fantastic event, with brilliant facilities, fantastic organisation and beautiful grounds. The promotion of the event is also fantastic, and this would not happen without the absolute total dedication by the Media and PR people.
Overall, the culture at New Zealand’s premier tennis event can best be described as being a mix between focused dedication, mutual enjoyment, and a definite relaxed attitude. It is the combination of these three elements that make the culture at the ASB Classic and Heineken Open so great. The organisers, and volunteers of this event have put on a brilliant spectacle for the spectators at the tournament. And the Media and PR team have done (and are doing) a great job in presenting the goings on at the tournament to the fans sitting at home. In order to do this they need to be focused and they need to stay on task. It is because of their focus and dedication to the task that the spectators at this event can have such a great time. The NZ Festival of Tennis, with its brilliant organisation, fantastic food and drink, high fashion and baking sun; is an absolute must to experience first hand. I for one highly encourage any visitors to New Zealand in January to come to these events.