The sporting world will focus on Melbourne from now until February 21, 2021 as it plays host to the Australian Open. Australia may have one of the strictest lockdown to combat the COVID19 virus, but still skeptics imply that for this sporting event to take place with live audiences over a 2-week period is reckless to say the least.
As a sports tourism advocate, I can only admire the resolve of the organizers. In tandem with the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals), over one hundred top players are already in Melbourne with over a thousand support staff all under strict 14-day hotel quarantine.
Players and trainers are only allowed five hours a day for practices and workout. They are not allowed to leave the hotel premises. Flying into this Victorian city were all done through specially arranged chartered flights and with tight airport to hotel transfers.
The Victorian State government had announced that they will allow up to 30,000 spectators per day for the entire duration of the Australian Open from February 8 to 21. The number of allowed spectators is only 50% of the normal daily attendance compared to previous years.
Still, in totaling up numbers, around 360,000 Aussies as well as Aussie residents would have watched the tournament live. Unlike the Philippines, there are no interstate restrictions imposed on their citizens travelling from one state or city to another within this land down under. In fact, Filipinos scoff that we are the only ASEAN country that restricts its citizens from interstate travel by imposing some health protocols bordering on the ridiculous initiated by and differing from one local government to another.
Apart from the brilliant tennis that will keep you entertained for the good fortnight, sports and tourism advocates will hold their breaths as we witness this sporting event, hoping that there will be no catastrophic incidents until the last point is scored, until new champions are crowned, until the lights are finally switched off at the Rod Laver Arena on February 21.
Charles Lim is the Chairman and Founder of the Philippine Sports Tourism Awards. His advocacy for Sports Tourism dates back to 2004 with the inception of the Sports Tourism Forum – a popular seminar workshop for those in sports and the hospitality trade – which is currently ongoing. He can be reached through firstname.lastname@example.org.