Renewed effort to put a leash on the spread of COVID-19 in Australia has come to hurt top sporting events in the country. Now, there are worries that it could even impair the conduct of the Australian Open 2021 early next year.
Even as the famed Melbourne Cricket Ground is gearing up to host India for the ‘Boxing Day’ Test during their ensuing cricket series, the road to hosting the year’s first Grand Slam in 2021 could be fraught with speed bumps and potholes.
Melbourne Park is scheduled to play host to the Australian Open 2021 from January 20 to February 2, but the event is likely to present grave logistical challenges to the organizers at the time the world is still grappling with the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Earl Eddings, the chairman of Cricket Australia (CA), said the MCG, which has been starved of international cricket while bound by the lockdown shackles, is scheduled to host the ‘Boxing Day’ Test as planned unless a sudden imposition of blanket restrictions forced them to switch to Plan B.
Eddings said the CA has already put Adelaide on standby should a fresh lockdown force the organizers to shift the ‘Boxing Day’ Test out of Melbourne.
The CA said the showpiece Test, despite restrictions, is expected to draw spectators numbering 25,000, per day. However, Martin Pakula, Victoria’s Minister for Sport, Racing, and Major Events said the number may be revised in the event of a spike in COVID-19 caseload in the state.
While presenting a rosy picture of the ‘Boxing Day’ Test, the minister said the state is still unsure of how best to arrange quarantine facilities for the players and coaches ahead of the Australian Open. “The Australian Open, from a logistical point of view, is a significantly greater challenge than cricket,” Pakula said.
“Apart from the issue of crowds, you’ve got the issue of getting hundreds of players and their entourages into Melbourne, being quarantined here or in another part of the country. The logistical issues with the Australian Open are significant,” Pakula added.
Tennis fans would hope the Australian Open doesn’t meet the same fate as Wimbledon and the organizers can work through the logistical challenges to host the Grand Slam as scheduled.