Championship hits the bullseye for Christmas revelers

Wed Dec 24, 2014 11:52pm EST
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - A burly man squeezed into a nurse's outfit, and carrying a four-pint jug of beer in each hand, lurched across the floor into the arms of Snow White and an assortment of Elves.

Elsewhere in the Great Hall at London's iconic Alexandra Palace, a motley crew of skeletons, nuns, Elvis Presleys, matadors, and rather disheveled Santas, were partying hard -- all in the name of darts.

For 14 days either side of Christmas this is the World Darts Championship -- the self-proclaimed pinnacle of a traditional sport played in bars and pubs across the world and now experiencing boom times in Britain.

Each night, 2,500 fans assemble at the 150-year-old venue known as the People's Palace, to watch the likes of 16-times world champion Phil 'The Power' Taylor and Dutch master Raymond van Barneveld pepper a dartboard with tungsten missiles.

That is the basic premise, anyway, although dartboards are 18 inches across and from the cheap seats at the back of the auditorium, especially after a few ales have sunk in, following the trajectory of a dart is nigh on impossible.

Two giant video screens flank the oche, the line behind which throwers stand, so the crowd can see what is going on but a large majority don't really seem too concerned.

They keep up a cacophony of noise even when players are fixing their gaze on a double 16 or a bullseye.

Now and then the din is punctuated by the announcer's roar of "One Hundred and eighhhhhhhhhty" as three darts nestle in the treble 20 -- the darts equivalent of a six in cricket or a baseball home run -- and the crowd go wild.   Continued...