Crowds to return to Australian Open tonight
The Australian Open will open its gates to thousands of tennis fans for the last four days of the tournament after the state of Victoria announced a snap coronavirus lockdown would be lifted from midnight on Wednesday.
Victorian State Premier Dan Andrews said the crowds allowed into Melbourne Park for the semi-finals and finals of the Grand Slam event might be reduced from the originally agreed 25,000 a day.
Tournament organizers later said they had agreed with the government to have 7,477 fans in each of today’s two sessions and the same number for the singles finals sessions on Saturday and Sunday evenings.
Fans must wear masks where “social distancing is not possible,” they added.
“We look forward to welcoming fans back to the Australian Open for the next four days and to finishing the event safely and on a high,” tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement.
“The crowd will be capped at 7,477 for each session, which is approximately 50 percent capacity. Last week we had our first real experience of live sport with fans in the stands and the atmosphere was electric.”
Tiley’s reference to 50 percent capacity related to the showcase Rod Laver Arena, which can seat 15,000 people, but he said fans would be allowed into the various entertainment areas around the precinct.
That number of spectators in masks might present a stark contrast to the first five days of the tournament when there was a sometimes febrile atmosphere.
Organizers will be desperate for fans to return after spending a huge amount of money, including AUD$40 million (US$31 million) on putting players through 14 days of quarantine.