More than 1,500 refugees invited to Wimbledon for centenary event

More than 1,500 refugees from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Syria have been invited to Wimbledon on Sunday as part of celebrations to mark the tennis venue’s 100-year anniversary.

The centenary celebrations, which will take place on Centre Court on Sunday afternoon, will be presented by Sue Barker, Clare Balding and the former Wimbledon and US Open champion John McEnroe.

It will feature a presentation looking back at significant moments of the tournament’s history, and conclude with a performance by the singer-songwriter Freya Ridings.

The crowd attending Sunday’s celebrations is expected to include more than 1,000 Ukrainian refugees who have settled in Wandsworth, and about 500 refugees from Afghanistan and Syria, who have all received complimentary tickets. Schools, charities, tennis clubs and 14,000 people from the local community have been invited to attend.

Also in attendance, in the royal box, will be an ancestor of Lesley Godfrey, who hit the first ball on Centre Court, as well as representatives from Stanley Peaches Architecture firm, who designed the court.

Sally Bolton, the chief executive of Wimbledon, said the centenary celebrations were special as they highlighted the “enduring image of Wimbledon”.

She said the images of this year’s tournament in essence reflected the court’s 100-year history.

“One of the incredible things about the championships, when you look at those images of Centre Court, is that the players dressed in white on the grass surface, many of those images look very much the same [throughout the years],” she said.

“That image you instantly recognise as Wimbledon is significant for us.”

The centenary celebrations will be marked with the release of a collection of limited-edition digital artworks of iconic Wimbledon moments from each decade since the opening of Centre Court, which have been minted on blockchain. Special merchandise, including limited-edition towels celebrating the centenary, is also on sale.