The Australian Open should not be made more important than people’s health

Photo from AP

About 600 players and officials are involved in the coming Australian Open Grand Slam tennis tournament. Many more have and will be coming into close proximity to these people.

The good thing is that all those coming into Australia were compelled to go into a two-week lock down, just in case they were bringing in Cocid-19.

Since their arrival, there have been a few positive tests. This is not so good. One would think there would be talk about scrapping the event. Not so.

This is sport and a diversion form the problems of the day. Far more importantly, there is a lot of money riding on the event, and big profits to be made from it. This includes a significant part of the Australian media. Sponsoring, telecasting rights and advertising revenue are worth at least tens of millions.

From the beginning, some have complained about the exception allowed to sporting names, when thousands Australians have been stuck overseas.  Is this sort of discrimination justified?

The last few weeks have made it clear that the pandemic is far from over. New strains appearing overseas, new outbreaks in Australia, have highlighted how tenuous the situation is. Victoria has been no exception. The mask wearing rule has been tightened again. People must wear one in indoor public places. Private gatherings have been reduced back down to 15 people.

There has been a new positive test result at the Grant Hyatt hotel where the tennis players and officials are quarantined.

Despite everything, the players are out practicing, and the tournament is scheduled to begin on 9 February.

None of the players just tested show to be infected. This is good. It doesn’t justify complacency. The risk remains significant.

                     Photo from AP: Players line up to be tested at the Grand Hyatt

It is not only the players and officials. Spectators e being allowed to watch the training. When the matches are played, there will be up to 30,000 packed together every day of the tournament. The distancing rule will go out the window. This is an invitation for a breakout.

This shouldn’t be happening. I enjoy watching a good game of tennis. I also appreciate that the health and wellbeing of my fellow citizens is more important.

At the least, there should be a stop to spectators coming in. I know the organisers will miss out on gate takings, and a grand slam without the crowd is not the same thing. I enjoy tennis and have been to the court to watch. I can put up with the inconvenience, and I’m sure others can as well. It’s ultimately about whether health or the bottom line are more important.

In there are any more outbreaks, the Australia open should be cancelled.

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