It’s smiles all round as curtain comes down on the World Indoor Bowls Championships at Potters
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Glitz and glamour is something the folk at Potters Resort do very well, and the entertainment that preceded Sunday's Just World Indoor Singles final on the portable rink was something to behold - as was the smile on the face of Mark Dawes, who beat Rob Paxton in a memorable encounter.
Celebrations were in order, but, behind the show-biz razzmatazz of the biggest bowls event in the world was a good reason for the feel-good factor that was in the air at Potters at the weekend.
Richard Maddieson, the CEO of the World Bowls Tour, and tournament director of the annual event, wore a big smile as he announced that a new three-year deal has been agreed with the BBC, who will give extensive coverage to the championships over the past week.
In turn, the WBT and Potters have agreed to keep the championships at the five-star resort in Hopton-on-Sea, on the Norfolk coast, continuing an association that saw it staged at Potters for the 20th time this year.
John Potter, the managing director of Potters Resort, said: 'As the world's largest provider of bowls holidays, we are delighted to confirm our place as the home of bowls, and that Just Group will continue as sponsor of the championships.'
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Maddieson, who appreciates the work that Potters do to fill the 1,100-seater auditorum in the International Arena, reports that the BBC TV viewing figures have been better than ever - more than 1.5 million viewers tuning in at peak times.
'We are also very pleased with the reaction to our Facebook pages,' he said yesterday, as the spectators gallery and portable rink were being dismantled. 'Coverage of the event was streamed from Day One, and our use of social media gets better every year.'
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The 2018 event was notable, once again, for the high standard of bowls - and contrast in age between the loyal spectators, most of whom are pensioners, and the successful competitors on the rink: bowls is indeed a sport for all ages.
The remarkable Ipswich ace, Katherine Rednall, who won the Women's Matchplay event is only 22, while the Open singles champion, Mark Dawes, who lives in Bury, but plays his bowls in Blackpool, is 35 - though he looks much younger.
Thereby hangs a tale - when he won the Open Pairs title with Norfolk-born Jamie Chestney on Monday last week, Dawes visited the Bowlers' Bar at Potters for a well deserved celebration drink, and was challenged for his ID to prove he was old enough to purchase and consume an alcoholic drink!
Local bowlers were to the forefront, with Chestney, who was born in Little Snoring, but now resides in Devon, winning two world titles - the Open Pairs and the Mixed Pairs, Rednall defeating Bex Field, from the Norfolk club in the Women's Matchplay final.
But, without doubt, the highlight was the unprecedented success of Field's fiancee Wayne Willgress, who, after being given a wildcard entry to the Open Singles, defeated three world champions - Andy Thomson, Stewart Anderson and Greg Harlow - on his way to the semi finals.
Although he failed the reach the final, he gave Rob Paxton a tough time, and more than justified his wildcard status - but his presence at Potters also added a special dimension to the event, because he brought with him a band of partisan supporters from the Norfolk club, which is situated in Unthank Road in Norwich.
Ordinarily, the Potters faithful - residents and day visitors - are impartial, and are happy if they see good bowls, no matter who delivers them. Suddenly we had a crowd who cared passionately who won, and who got behind their man, and the atmosphere was electric.
It has been confirmed that the Just 2019 World Indoor Bowls Championships will return to Potters for 17 days between 11 and 17 January, 2019, and that a range of short break and day tickets are already available. Some things never change.