THE Alexandra Palace has survived two huge fires and being hit by a German doodlebug bomb in 1944, which exploded and blew the famous rose window to smithereens. This great old lady ‘People’s Palace’ has seen it all. Now World Championship darts has defied the global Covid-19 pandemic and will take place at this bastion of sporting legend.
It has unquestionably been an almost impossible task pulled off by the Professional Darts Corporation. Trying to organise the biggest sporting event of the winter in the UK on the backdrop of the Prime Minister’s tiers of a clown system has been more treacherous than two armies calling a truce to play football in no man’s land at the Somme on Christmas day just over 100 years ago. At the time of going to press, there was still no confirmation of whether this year’s Ally Pally would be no man’s or woman’s land. The PDC were still trying to clamber through metaphorical barbed wire of pandemic guidelines to allow fans back to attend the World Championship.
It seems almost bizarre now to watch TV coverage of Peter Wright’s raucous walk-on before beating Michael van Gerwen in last year’s world final. Fans or no fans, it is a phenomenal achievement that at least the grand ol’ Ally Pally will remain the fitting venue for this World Championship. We must acknowledge the PDC’s consistent force in getting darts back on TV during the most rollercoaster of challenging months during the pandemic.
The debate over no fans attending, fake crowd noise, living in hotel bubbles, being away from families has raged since events returned in the summer. But the reality is that the prize money has stayed the same. No one has complained about the size of their winning cheque. Get over it. That’s not been an easy pill to swallow for the bean counters in Brentwood. But they’ve taken the financial hit and will continue to do so to keep the sport at the very top of the sporting agenda. The Ally Pally is where legends are born and made.
Talking of legends, we must extend our love and gratitude to commentator John Gwynne. The broadcasting legend revealed recently that recent hospital tests have revealed a tumour and possibly others. Gwynney will have the entire darts family fighting his corner for a battle ahead. You could write on the back of a fag packet what that man doesn’t know about this sport. That old gravelly-voice has called home some champions, as we are frequently reminded on the bespoke Sky Sports Darts channel at Christmas. That “is it, is it” line when Raymond van Barneveld beat Phil Taylor at the Circus in 2007 was stuff of true commentary genius. Keep fighting Gwynney, we’re with you all the way.
So now attention turns to the big one. This is our World Championship special edition packed with all the top names vying for the Sid Waddell Trophy. But at least that trophy will be lifted at the Alexandra Palace on Sunday, January 3. A famous old building conceived by a Welsh architect Owen Jones. An omen perhaps.
Words: Phil Lanning
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