More than 230,000 racegoers will attend the four-day Cheltenham Festival.
Over the past two decades the Cheltenham Festival "has evolved to become one of the most popular and best-loved sporting events in Britain and Ireland," according to Owen Gibson of the London GUARDIAN. On Wednesday 53,295 streamed through the gates, a record crowd as it had been on the opening day, and Friday's Gold Cup day "is already a sell-out." But as attendance figures have soared from 70,000 over three days to 230,000 over four, "it also now more than makes its contribution to that other stereotypically British obsession: queueing." The festival of queuing "begins long before you reach the gates and is particularly acute on Gold Cup day." "Queue for the train at Paddington, queue for the bus when you get off the train at Cheltenham Spa, queue to get into the course. Then queue for a drink, queue for some food, queue for a bet. Repeat until it is time to queue for a taxi or a bus home." Not that giddy crowds "seemed to care." The challenge for the Jockey Club, which owns the course, "is to retain the unique atmosphere of the Festival while overhauling facilities that all agree need to be improved." The atmosphere and the sport might be very different but the comparison to Wimbledon is opposite -- there, the All England Club "has over recent years managed to upgrade its facilities without losing the core of its appeal." Now Cheltenham "must pull off the same trick" (GUARDIAN, 3/14