Albeit an unusual way to start a tennis match, this was a suitable introduction for the somewhat theatrical beginning of the showdown between two of the top 10 rated players in the world, Rafael Nadal and Thomas Berdych. Sitting in my seat in the O2 arena, 40m above the ground, I was exposed to one of the explicit realities of our changing society: the Americanisation of British culture. This notion, previously seen in a range of aspects in our community including the media- most notably in the repetitive assortment of TV programmes originating from the USA, the impact on British music and the hype over American-based ideas such as Halloween and Prom has now infiltrated its way into an intrinsic part of British heritage: sport.
Watching the match amidst a sea of sporadic flashing light was both disorientating and illuminating as I found myself drawing parallels between this event and a baseball game I witnessed in Queens, NY in 2012. The sustained presence of advertisement, music and merchandise which serves as an essential part of any American sport was mirrored by the consumerist nature of the way in which the ATP World tour tennis finals was shrouded. Similarly the persistent existence of food can be attributed to both events, where the integrated fast food stalls of the Mets baseball stadium in Queens are imitated by the numerous stands which surround the O2 arena.When placed next to the traditional, historical and disciplined nature of Wimbledon, this emergence of a game cloaked by the notion of entertainment may be considered by some as a depreciation of British sport. The shortened version of the matches (sudden death deuce and best of three sets instead of best of five) serve as an epitomisation of this idea by highlighting the hurried nature of our society and our low attention span. Additionally the discipline within the crowd itself further illustrates our lack of concentration as many spectators chose not to focus solely on the game itself but were distracted by the lure of the technological world and proceeded to direct their attention towards their phones and cameras.
The influence of technology was likewise seen in the sport itself, through adverts which encouraged the crowd to engage with twitter, facebook and instagram to further publicise the event. Interestingly the main sponsors of the ATP World Tour were Barclays, Mercedes Benz, Corona and Emirates, which reflects the exploitative nature of our society as companies utilize sport for their own financial gains and publicity.
Fortunately, this transgression from a disciplined game of sport to a show of entertainment did not affect the quality of the tennis itself, although the flash photography and constant cheering from the crowds seemed to act as a significant distraction for the players. When interviewed, many reiterated their love of the atmosphere and appreciation of the crowd’s support. Furthermore, this fresh perspective of sport and innovative use of popular media techniques succeeded in attracting sufficient numbers to fill the 20,000 seat capacity of the O2, in turn providing a key revenue stream for ATP which will ensure the continuation of the competition. This increased interest and facilitation of access to tennis may also inspire more youths to take up sport, which will be highly beneficial to society.
Overall, my general impression of the ATP finals was one of appreciation and I believe that the movement of focus from exercise to entertainment can be justified by the positive results. The influence of American ideals in sport is by no means a modern phenomenon but rather a gradual progression and as consumers we are the ones to blame. Yet there is also certain inevitability to the Americanisation of Britain, and as the world becomes more globalised - with information and cultural products travelling far more easily and quickly across borders - it is natural that smaller countries adopt the traits of other, larger countries.
Ultimately the real question is what will happen in the future: should we embrace the implications of a new culture or attempt to retain our more traditional heritage?