#JB47 The Greatest Event in the World
Saturday, January 9, 2016
The Greatest Event in the World
I feel absolutely honoured that I had the opportunity to attend the Alexandra Palace again this year and it was even better than last time. What a tournament. What a sport we have in front of us to delight millions of people around the world. All we do is throw an arrow at a sectioned board – but it is more than that. The excitement is incredible and the talent is undoubted. How much better can it get?
I read a few weeks ago how the World Championships at the Ally Pally has this overwhelming power to keep drawing you back to watch the event and after visiting two years on the bounce I can confirm this is true. I want to go back more than ever and see what Christmas 2016 has to offer.
In contrast to last year, this time around I had bought tickets for the Quarter Finals and in particular the Evening Session. This meant I watched throughout the tournament, passionately cheering on my favourite players in the hope that I would get the chance to watch them play. Therefore, I was delighted to watch the last night of darts in 2015 to discover arguably my favourite player, Peter Wright, had made it to face my mother’s favourite in Adrian Lewis. This only added to my excitement before travelling down to London early New Year’s Day morning.
The night began through getting the London Underground to Wood Green and following a flock of chickens up the hill to the Palace which is simply mesmerising as soon as it is in sight. Lighting up the top of the hill, it provides views across London with an electric atmosphere. Heightened security checks this year meant entrance to the Palace took slightly longer but once inside the invigorating passion ahead of another night of darts was unavoidable.
“Darts is my religion and the Ally Pally is my church” is a phrase often written on darts memorabilia and it is now firmly established as the home of PDC Darts. The Alexandra Palace has a long history from originally being named after the Princess of Wales, Alexandra of Denmark, who married Prince Edward in 1863. Then, in the 20th Century it became home to the BBC despite being damaged during the Second World War. However, as the home of the World Championship it is now as famous as ever and I firmly believe it is an absolute perfect fit for the most perfect tournament.
In the build up to the darts, the good spirit and gentlemanly nature of the game was present despite the drinks flowing. Legends of the game Eric Bristow and Keith Deller kindly signed our programme and the security inside the arena were in the spirit of the night, handing out the hats and scorecards to fans and dogs alike. (Yes, there was a real live dog in the arena!)
As we took our seats I was delighted to discover they were just as good as last year even if I had been concerned by the layout change to incorporate an extra 500 fans into the arena. We were sat in the family stand to the right of the stage and the best fancy dress I witnessed has to go to the German lady dressed as Little Red Riding Hood to our left with her boyfriend as the Big Bad Wolf! It was incredibly refreshing to witness the large range of fancy dress and the diversity of nationalities amongst the crowd. The German representation was in full force in particular and there were even a few German songs on the night. I have seen many bloggers, commentators and tweeters criticise the PDC crowd in the past but I think it is incredible for the game, while I was present they remained respectful to the players throughout and were in good spirits throughout the night.
The darts action kicked off with Michael Smith vs. Raymond van Barneveld and although I expected this to be the weaker of the two matches, it was completely mesmerising throughout. As the crowd got behind the Dutch favourite with regular eruptions of “Barney Army!,” his comeback surged on as he completed a comeback 5:4 victory and created a goosebumps moment for me with his powerful celebration. One of the key changes I have had personally throughout this competition is my love for van Barneveld which has grown stronger with each win. Although I had wanted to see Michael van Gerwen on my visit to the Palace, I found myself cheering on “Barney” in his historic last 16 tie with the World Number 1. Don’t get me wrong, I have always had the upmost respect for what van Barneveld has achieved in this game but it wasn’t until this tournament where his skill, composure and gentlemanly nature was there to see that he has become one of my favourite players in the world.
Between the matches on the night, a quick trip to the toilet proved to be one of the most stressful moments of the night! Standstill surrounded the entrance and exit to the toilet as hundreds of men screamed “There’s Only One Phil Taylor…” at the top of their voices. I am all for a bit of a sing-a-long but the great man hadn’t even made it to the quarter finals this year and I was anxious to make it back to my seat for my favourite two walk-ons in darts! Thankfully, I achieved this with around 30 seconds to spare and I wasn’t disappointed as Peter Wright jumped his way along to our side of the stage. Although this match wasn’t as thrilling for the audience, it was still incredibly high quality and I loved seeing two of my favourite players on the big stage. Unfortunately, as a Peter Wright fan I was disappointed at his 5.2 defeat but my mother went home happy and so did the fans we met all the way back in the hotel chanting “da da da da Adrian Lewis!” up until their stop!
Reflecting on the whole tournament now and I truly believe it is the best world championships in my living memory. Gary Anderson may not have had to overcome Taylor and van Gerwen this time around but he thoroughly deserves to be two time World Champion and threw some exceptional darts throughout. It is incredible to read that he struggles so badly with his eyesight and maybe even more incredible to some people that a teetotaller is now two time world darts champion! This win for Gary Anderson now puts him up there with the darting greats and just as it seemed like darts was getting easier to predict with van Gerwen sweeping the floor through much of 2015, this reminded us that we never know what to expect. We got first round shocks, another 9-darter and astonishingly close games with the van Gerwen-van Barneveld and Chisnall-Wright games being amongst the best ever seen on the Ally Pally stage.
It may be argued that we have seen darts offer up this drama and entertainment on previous occasions but a real unique talking point of this year’s tournament was the performance of Phil Taylor. The 16 time world champion appeared noticeably out of character throughout his time in the competition from his first post match interview in particular and it really was no shock when Jelle Klaasen knocked him out. There have been questions for years about how long the legend of our game will continue and these questions are now stronger than ever before. I’ve learnt from previous mistakes that it’s always risky to say Taylor can’t win another major tournament but I do very much doubt whether it can be achieved.
Penultimately, the Premier League Lineup was announced straight after the Sid Waddell Trophy had been presented and I hope you are pleased to know I am actually happy this year! I am excited to see what these 10 players have to offer and very surprised that there isn’t a more unpredictable wildcard this year. As a Thornton fan I am delighted to see him back in and by picking the top 10 players in the World Rankings it makes for a much fairer decision. I was surprised however to see the early odds for the tournament pitting Gary Anderson as third favourite coming back as defending champion and back to back world champion! This only shows what a competitive field of players we have today but I feel that van Gerwen has something to prove again. Despite everything he has achieved in the game, he hasn’t won the Premier League for 3 years now and the same will be said heading into the World Championships next winter respectively.
Finally, although I am excited about the Premier League again, my greatest love in darts will continue to be the World Championships at the Ally Pally and I am already counting down the days until the tournament returns. I may only be 17 but have been lucky enough to travel to various cities across the world including Rome, Los Angeles and Las Vegas but London is definitely my favourite. There is nowhere else I would prefer to go to watch the darts. I have simply seen the greatest city, the greatest tournament and the greatest entertainment in the world and I beg all of you to get your tickets for the darts.
NOTE: To see all my photos and watch my videos from my night at the Ally Pally please go to Jambo’s Darts.