27
Mar 07

Pomp and Circumnavigation

FT + TMFD3 comments • 1,430 views

wembleycamOn Saturday, a crack FT team took it upon themselves to brave the wilds of North West London, in order that we could report back to you, dear reader, on the condition and facilities of the nu-Wembley stadium. We did it all for you, you ungrateful sods.

Here are our observations: impressive edifice; tremendous views even from the top tier where we sat; expensive bad food and drinks; the stadium seemed very red inside due to the presence of more than 90,000 scarlet seats (over 30,000 of which were unoccupied); pretty much impossible to get tens of thousands of people to and from the suburbs comfortably but it seemed OK in the circumstances; overall it was good but blimey it wanted to be since they’ve been building it since about 1732 and they’ll be paying for it for even longer.

So far, so obvious. Nothing here you wouldn’t be able to read on countless pages of user-generated content across the interweb.

On a day when more than 50,000 people turned out to watch a game of football, and less than 10% of them seemed to care much about the result, it’s nice that my abiding memory won’t have anything to do with football. Having got to 3-3 with about twenty minutes to go, the teams seemed to decide that that was enough, honour was fulfilled, and the game dribbled to an uneventful end.

A smallish percentage of the crowd, mindful of the likelihood of massive queues to get into the tube (and perhaps worried about whether or not it is possible to be a spectator when no spectacle remains) started to filter out. Behind us, we noticed a few fellows taking what seemed to be a long way round to the exit. But they seemed to miss the stairway down, and they kept going. And going. Following a snaky path, they selected underpopulated rows of seats to walk along, so not too many were bothered by their route. Slowly, we realised the truth. magellanists

This small band of adventurers was attempting a circumnavigation of the Upper Tier of the new Wembley.

This feat won’t be easy to replicate. The game was a friendly, meaning unsegregated seating, which will (I suppose) be rare in the future. The whole point of the fixture was to demonstrate the workability of the stadium with serious numbers of people inside, in order to gain some kind of safety certificate from the Council, so about 55000 people were there. That meant some stretches of their great expedition were through banks of unoccupied seats, making things easier than squeezing through a grumpy capacity crowd. A couple of them got cocky in the wide-open spaces and started jumping over seats in a lively fashion, which we thought might lead to stewardly intervention. No, they continued unmolested*.

The burning question was: would they make it all the way around before full time? Clearly, the whole exercise would be invalidated if the final whistle went before the circuit was completed. Any fool can walk around a stadium when there’s no game on. It was very, very tight. We reckon the first two thirds of the journey took them about 15 minutes, and they were clearly hurrying as the clock ran down. Of course, we didn’t know exactly where their quest had started, so we weren’t sure about the finishing line either.

With a couple of minutes left of the game, and just a little way past the big electronic scoreboard on (what I think is) the East curve of the stadium, they started leaping about like they’d won a famous victory. Which they had.

Hats off to these anonymous pioneers of the pointless.

*I wonder if this counts as one of the “minor stewarding problems“?

Comments

  1. 1
    Pete on 27 Mar 2007 #

    “Escalators did not quite do the job they should have”

    This is a nice way of saying that “the escalators weren’t working”.

    The nice thing about the big gaps without punters in the stadium was that it acted as a kind of firebreak for the twunts who tried to start Mexican waves. Who started at six minutes!

  2. 2
    Pete Baran on 27 Mar 2007 #

    Note the flag in picture number 2. Well done BBC!

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/6490939.stm

  3. 3
    CarsmileSteve on 1 Apr 2007 #

    wait, what about the WANC flag? google gives little hints…

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