Daily crowds of between 25,000 and 30,000 will be allowed to watch the Australian Open, organisers said Saturday in a big boost to the season’s opening Grand Slam.
Aggressive restrictions on incoming travel have helped keep the coronavirus largely at bay in Australia, making it one of the few places in the world where fans can still attend sports events in significant numbers.
Victoria state’s Sports Minister Martin Pakula said it equated to some 390,000 spectators across the two-week spectacle – around half the attendance of last year.
The event’s Covid-safe plan allows a daily crowd of 30,000 for the first eight days of the Slam, then 25,000 from the start of the quarter-finals.
“That means on Rod Laver Arena, as we get to the end of the tournament, we’ll have an incredible atmosphere, not that different to the atmosphere we’ve seen in all the Opens in years past,” he said.
“It will not be the same as the last few years, but it will be the most significant international event with crowds that the world has seen for many, many months.”
Victoria has now gone 24 days without any new locally acquired cases of the virus and all players who arrived in Australia had to undergo a mandatory 14 days of quarantine.
Eight positive cases were detected from the more than 1,000 players, coaches and officials who flew in on 17 charter flights.
Players are gradually emerging from their lockdown with the first of six ATP and WTA tournaments due to begin at Melbourne Park on Sunday ahead of the Australian Open starting on February 8.
Tournament chief Craig Tiley said it had been a huge logistical exercise.
“We hope to have set the stage and the example for the rest of the world about the possibility of being able to do this,” he said.