Australian Open 2021 organisers eye five 'bubbles', 400,000 fans and full prize money

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Published: Aug 12, 2020, 05:07 PM(IST)

Usual start to 2020 Photograph:( Reuters )

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The Australian Open 2021 could be moved to later date in the year due to COVID-19 pandemic, however, the tournament director Craig Tiley has said that the tournament organisers are confident of hosting the Grand Slam with complete prize money and fans in the stands in its scheduled time in January.

The Australian Open 2021 could be moved to later date in the year due to COVID-19 pandemic, however, the tournament director Craig Tiley has said that the tournament organisers are confident of hosting the Grand Slam with complete prize money and fans in the stands in its scheduled time in January.

Melbourne is in between a full lockdown following another spike in coronavirus cases but Tiley and his team have been planning strategies to make sure the 2021 edition of Australian Open goes ahead without any fuss.

While ticket sales are set to commence in October, five ‘bio-secure bubbles’ will be opened across the country six weeks before the tournament starts in a bid to allow players coming to Australia to avoid stringent quarantine protocols. 

“We’re going to open our bio bubble from the first of December and players can come at any time,” Tennis Australia’s (TA) chief executive told Reuters.

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“When the players arrive, our expectation is they’re not going to be in a hotel for 14 days like the current requirements are. We’ll have an exemption within this bio-secure bubble.

“We’ve said every year that we’re the ‘happy slam’. But now we’re saying we’re the ‘very safe and happy slam.’”

Tennis Australia’s crisis management team, which was set up to combat the difficulties in conducting 2020 Australia Open following the bushfire smoke, has come up with a business and operational plan for each of the scenarios related to 2021 edition of the Grand Slam. 

The first scenario was the event being held in much the same way as 2020, while the second was a tournament with limited crowds, said Tiley.

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“Scenario three was behind closed doors, a broadcast-only event. Scenario four was moving to another time of the year,” he added.

“And scenario five is no event at all.”

Tiley sounded confident of being able to allow around 400,000 fans to Melbourne Park in 2021 – which is around half the number that attended 2020 Australian Open. Effective physical distancing and wearing of masks will be made mandatory. 

“We’ve established a strategy and an operational plan for all our fans and how they will be positioned around the site,” he said.

The tournament director further said that organisers had employed ‘global experts’ to set up bio-secure bubbles and testing facilities in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide and Melbourne, which will also help the players to get used to the climate and train for the Grand Slam.

Australian Open has been held in Melbourne since 1972 and is the primary source of revenue for Tennis Australia. The last edition had a direct economic impact of A$387 million ($277 million) on Melbourne, Tiley said.

TA expects turnover and revenue from the next edition to decrease by a double-digit percentage but they would not be reducing the A$71 million prize purse.

“I’m optimistic and positive that we’ll have an event and it’ll be in Melbourne,” said Tiley, adding that TA had cash reserves of A$80 million to lean on in the event the tournament had to be cancelled.

“It will have some crowds and it’ll be the beginning of kind of getting back to the way we were.”

(With Reuters inputs)
 

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