ENTERTAINMENT

Fans are returning to the World Darts Championship for just one night at Alexandra Palace


Darts fans only returned eagerly for one night on Tuesday to compete in the world championship at Alexandra Palace, just before London enters stage three of Covid-19 restrictions.

The Darthallen were empty year round and didn't have the usual high octane party atmosphere due to the outbreak and spread of the coronavirus in the UK.

In an odd way, fans returned in their dribs and drabs on Tuesday to see reigning champion Peter Wright and Co. in action before the doors close again.

Wright certainly didn't disappoint and used the fans' fleeting return to make a big statement. Always the showman, Wright stepped into the famous area dressed like none other than the Grinch before sticking to the script and stealing Christmas from Steve West with a convincing 3-1 win.

Fans return on day one of the William Hill World Darts Championship at Alexandra Palace

The revered darts venue looked very unusual with its spacious table and partition walls

The revered darts venue looked very unusual with its spacious table and partition walls

Reigning world champion Peter Wright stole the show by showing up dressed as the Grinch

Reigning world champion Peter Wright stole the show by showing up dressed as the Grinch

He took a 2-0 lead before West, who had defeated Amit Gilitwala in the first round the night before, threatened to make a comeback by taking the third set on Wright's throw.

But the 50-year-old, who played with a rib injury, regained his composure and hit back immediately. He won with a double 10 – just like in the 2020 final on New Years Day.

London's government-mandated move to the third tier means that large gatherings for spectator sports will not be allowed, along with drinking breaks in bars, restaurants and sports venues.

Photographers were on hand to capture the action on Tuesday when fans invaded the venue and came across very unfamiliar landmarks.

The usual hustle and bustle in the Alexandra Palace has been replaced by socially distant spaces, one-way systems and sanitary zones.

Fans were allowed to attend on Tuesday but will not be able to attend once London reaches tier three

Fans were allowed to attend on Tuesday but will not be able to attend once London reaches tier three

The fans were asked to remain seated at all times, but were able to consume alcohol as usual

The fans were asked to remain seated at all times, but were able to consume alcohol as usual

The usual hectic energy and atmosphere were lacking as darts slowly began to move again

The usual hectic energy and atmosphere were lacking as darts slowly began to move again

Fans were allowed to sit together in the small groups of those they traveled with and consume alcohol and other beverages. The tables were far apart and in some cases cordoned off by sponsorship hoarding.

At the top of the reckoning was reigning champion Wright, who recently admitted he had big problems this year without the input of a live audience while defending his title in the isolated dart bubble.

The 50-year-old's 2020 started with a bang when he won his first world crown. However, he spent most of his year as the defending champion playing in sterile bladders in Milton Keynes and Coventry due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With his eccentric sense of dress which is usually a festive theme at this tournament, a unique Mohawk hairstyle and an energetic walk-on, Wright is every inch the showman and feeds off playing in front of an audience.

He looked forward to the prospect of returning to Alexandra Palace to defend his world title in front of an audience, albeit not the usual sell-out.

However, those hopes were ended with news that the capital and parts of Essex and Hertfordshire will face Tier 3 restrictions starting Wednesday after "very strong, exponential spikes" in coronavirus cases.

Reigning champion Peter Wright was high on the bill, admitting he's struggling without the fans

Reigning champion Peter Wright was high on the bill, admitting he's struggling without the fans

This means that the event, which started on Tuesday, will be held behind closed doors until the end. Wright said before the development on Monday: “I'm definitely looking forward to it, the defending champions will be very special too.

“I was down and miserable in all of this Covid. It's the same for all players, we all had to be there and deal with it, be in the bladder and get tested every week, stick sticks up our necks and noses.

“It's terrible to do that and the hotel is doing its best mixing their food but you just have the same food all the time, it just drives you crazy. You are not allowed out.

“I didn't do really well, I was happy on the last day of the three weeks there, I was happy to go home, I was crazy.

“We had a small audience at the European Championship, but I won that. There were only 250 people, but they inspired me because I wanted to entertain them. I needed the adrenaline.