Australian Open reveals its bold ‘bio-bubble’ plan
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley is "optimistic" next year's Australian Open will go ahead with spectators despite the recent spike of COVID-19 cases in Victoria.
Melbourne is currently in full lockdown with over 8000 active cases across the state, and TA have put together several potential scenarios to ensure the Grand Slam tournament can take place.
Tiley revealed five "bio-secure" bubbles would be created six weeks before the tournament, allowing players to avoid quarantine measures. He said organisers had employed a "global expert" to help set up the bubbles.
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"I'm optimistic and positive that we'll have an event and it'll be in Melbourne," Tiley told Reuters.
"It will have some crowds and it'll be the beginning of kind of getting back to the way we were.
"We're going to open our bio-bubble from the first of December and players can come at any time.
"When the players arrive, our expectation is they're not going to be in a hotel for 14 days like the current requirements are. We'll have an exemption within this bio-secure bubble.
"We've said every year that we're the 'happy slam'. But now we're saying we're the 'very safe and happy slam.'"
Five different scenarios have been planned by TA's crisis management team, which was set up last season. If next year's Australian Open is unable to go ahead as it did in 2020, the tournament would be played with limited crowds.
Tiley believes up to 400,000 fans could attend the highly-anticipated event with strict social distancing restrictions in Melbourne Park next year, approximately half of the 2020 tournament's attendance.
"We've established a strategy and an operational plan for all our fans and how they will be positioned around the site," Tiley said.
"Scenario three was behind closed doors, a broadcast-only event. Scenario four was moving to another time of the year.
"And scenario five is no event at all."
If TA are forced to reschedule the event, Tiley claimed the March-April or September-October windows would be targeted. He also assured the $71 million prize surplus would not be reduced.
The 58-year-old revealed TA had cash reserves of $80 million if the tournament had to be cancelled - last year's Australian Open generated $387 million for the Melbourne economy.
- With Reuters
Originally published as Aus Open's bold 'bio-bubble' plan