Australian Open officials have launched a charm offensive with the hope of allowing players to enter the COVID-closed nation without a mandatory 14-day quarantine prior to the 2021 edition in January.
Open boss Craig Tiley put in a plea to Victoria state and Melbourne city officials, stressing that exemptions would be the only real solution to get up to 2,500 players and other foreign tournament personnel into the country.
Tiley was quick to point out the economic clout wielded by Australia’s largest multi-day sporting event.
“The Australian Open in January will pump millions of dollars directly into the economy for Melbourne and Victoria and play a major role in accelerating the economic recovery in the state,” he told AAP.
“This year alone the Open generated more than $387 million in economic benefit and created thousands of jobs.
“We can help the Victorian government, we can help the other governments – but we need help too,” he told AAP. “We need exemptions on bringing in 2500 people.
He added: “We will make commitments, we will invest millions of dollars into ensuring that they are safe from the community and the community is safe from them and we want to put an event out that our community can really enjoy and be proud of.
“And we can say we took a low-risk option and it was a great approach to actually showcase that you can get it going (during COVID-19).”
Under strict current regulations, the government must give individual approval for any non-Australian wishing to enter the country.
That is to be followed by a two-week quarantine in a hotel. With all expenses paid for players by the tournament, cost would not be a consideration – but training restrictions would be of major concern.
While numbers for the tennis public are expected to be slashed under any conceivable scenarios, Tiley is hoping for the usual red carpet to be laid out for players.
He wants a bio-safe training bubble to be established between a competitor’s hotel and the court – with an iron-clad exemption from the quarantine also granted; this would apply to players and limited maximum entourages of three other persons.
Officials are quick to tout the fact that tennis megastars Roger Federer and Serena Williams have already confirmed they are coming to Australia well ahead of the January 18 start.
They also want to allow in at least 25 per cent of the normal fortnight fan load, around 200,000 spectators through the gates of Melbourne Park.
“Fewer people will come in but it’s broadcast to a billion fans globally. That won’t change,” he said.
“And in a year’s time we’re going to have to have solutions to international travel because our economy won’t survive without that.”
Reports indicate that unless the quarantine exemption in granted quickly, the fate of the multi-city ATP Cup played prior to the Open could be in serious doubt.