As the year 2021 starts its second month, major sporting events around the world are testing the waters with regards to when and how they will hold their competitions while COVID-19 is still widespread and not everyone has been vaccinated. The question of whether Japan will push through with the Tokyo Summer Olympics this coming July after postponing it last year during the worst of the quarantines is still up in the air. But for the 2021 Australian Open, after a cautionary move from last month to this February the spirits are high, if the unmasked spectators during the pre-tournament exhibition matches is any indication.
CNN tells us that the warm-up matches for this year’s Australian Open have kicked off last week, days before the actual commencement of competition this coming February 8. On Friday, January 29, Australians flocked to the city of Adelaide, where no less than 4,000 people were packed in the stands around one of the venue’s hard-court surfaces to watch the best tennis players in the world warm up ahead of the Open. The wondrous thing about the sight, as commented on in Australian media, was that the spectators were almost all watching without wearing masks.
Perhaps in any other nation of the world, such an audacious mass action would have constituted as a “super spreader” event that would have seen a spike in new cases of COVID wherever that might have happened. But in Australia in general and Adelaide in particular, efforts to keep the annoyingly infectious and potentially deadly disease have been quite successful. Prior to last Friday, the country recorded 12 straight days without any new reported local infection, as proudly confirmed by Australia’s Health Minister Greg Hunt. Already the country has a total 28,800 confirmed COVID cases, 909 of which have died.
The sometimes draconian measures Australia undertook to control the coronavirus within their shores may have rubbed some of the Australian Open competitors from abroad the wrong way. Several of them complained on social media at being subjected to 14-day isolated quarantines regardless of any tests taken before travel. Rafael Nadal of Spain has called on fellow players to be more open-minded to the safety precautions. Perhaps the sight of an unmasked audience during the Adelaide exhibition games convinced them. American Andy Roddick certainly liked what he saw, according to Twitter.
Melbourne will as always host the Australian Open for 2021, which will run February 8-21.
Image courtesy of TMZ