The Australian Open (AO), the first of the four events making up the Grand Slam in tennis, is underway in Melbourne, Australia. Around the world we have seen a slow return to professional sports and an even slower return of fans. The Australian Open will be admitting up to 30,000 fans a day with a total of 390,000 people over a two-week time frame. If you are in the United States like me, you may have let out a gasp. You can read elsewhere more about the guidelines in place but I want to break down the significance of this.
According to Victoria state sports minister Martin Pakula, “… it will be the most significant international event with crowds that the world has seen since the beginning of the pandemic.” This kicking-off a day after the United States hosted the Super Bowl with 25,000 patrons.
Having fans travel for this event surely brings on risks. However, I believe the Australian Open realizes the significance of fan attendance. I do not want to obviate the impact of the pandemic but more so bring light to what having fans in attendance does for culture surrounding sports and a mood around a city. Melbourne thrives off of this event, and I can attest to this statement after my attendance in 2017. Keep in mind it is summer Down Under and this is the equivalent of basking at a baseball game on a hot day in the United States. Australians are flourishing in their classy dress, munching on avocado fries and enthusiastically bobbing heads (cue the left to right head swivel) in Melbourne Park. May this bring hope to the rest of the world that live sports will return, soon.