HOW can you tell, just by looking, if a country is a dictatorship? One sure sign is the presence in its official title of the words ‘democratic’ or ‘people’s’.

The German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, for example, was so democratic that it built a wall to prevent its ungrateful citizens from escaping to the west. And, having both words in its official moniker, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea - that’s North Korea to you and me - effectively admits that it’s got something sinister to hide.

Similarly, how can you tell when a certain sporting event is not normally a throbbing hotbed of proletarian fervour? When it periodically nominates extra days as ‘People’s Sunday’, of course.

We should say from the outset that Wimbledon is a lovely place, with a very special atmosphere, and has nothing at all in common with the grim, grey GDR, the nightmare that is North Korea, or indeed any other totalitarian regime. In fact, partly as a result of how long the Championships have been in existence, but mainly as a consequence of their own assiduous efforts, the All England Club have succeeded in making the fortnight-long tournament arguably the most well-organised sports event on the planet.

But, on any normal given day, the crowds within the grounds do not exactly represent a genuine cross-section of the population. There are now many different ways for the general public to try to get hold of tickets, and yet somehow, year after year, Centre Court in particular is an assembly of the affluent.

That’s part of its appeal, of course, at least for many visitors from abroad. Wimbledon is quaint, and quintessentially English, and the values it represents, its patience, politeness and polish, are wholly admirable.

Even so, you can bet your life that thousands of people who managed to get a ticket yesterday will have left at the end of the day wishing that People’s Sunday could happen a bit more regularly than it does. That’s always the way: the atmosphere is so special, so crackling, that the majority of people inside the grounds agree that it would be great if it could happen more often.

Back in 2001, the unscheduled day was even more special, because People’s Monday, as it was on that occasion, was tacked on to the end of the fortnight to hold the men’s final itself. That was Goran Ivanisevic’s year, and the clamour to see him take on Pat Rafter was incredible.

Admission yesterday was by online sales only, but 15 years ago the majority of spectators had queued overnight to ensure they got into the grounds. By the time the players came out on to Centre Court it was clear that some people in the crowd had sustained themselves through the small hours with something a bit stronger than the odd sweet sherry.

The emergence of the finalists is normally greeted with warm applause, some cheers, and an attempt at a standing ovation. But this time it was far more frenzied, epitomised by the young Croatian sitting directly in front of the press box who was clearly wired to the moon, and who reacted to seeing his hero emerge from the dressing room by stretching his arms out to their limit and shrieking at the top of his voice. He could hardly sit still throughout the five sets that followed, and had a look on his face when Ivanisevic won that suggested he was about to die in ecstasy.

The effervescence and energy of him and thousands of others led us all to agree that this had to happen more often. It did three years later, when, as has happened this year, rain delays led to play on the middle Sunday, but there has been little sign as yet that the club wants to institute people’s days voluntarily rather than solely as a consequence of the weather. Wimbledon has become used to bathing in its corporate revenue streams, and a whole day without hospitality packages would incur a cost it is unwilling to bear.

Lest we appear to be lambasting the Championships unduly, it should be added that, while Wimbledon in large part retains its elitist image, it goes out of its way to make everyone feel welcome. If the tennis is the primary attraction, the raison d’etre for the whole affair, the abiding memory for many is the sheer warmth and friendliness of the place and everyone in it.

Sports with far broader appeal than tennis - above all, football - would do well to learn from Wimbledon’s example. We may still like to think of football as the working man’s game, but that does not mean it treats its customers with any more respect.

In fact, at some clubs, it’s quite the reverse, with supporters often being treated as camera fodder - there primarily to help generate atmosphere so that viewers at home can enjoy the occasion a little bit more.

Although we don't need every day to be like People's Sunday at Wimbledon, we could do with more of them. But let’s not do it at the expense of what makes the place so special. It’s a delicate balance, but it can be found in time.