Feb 2, 2021 - Sports

Australian Open set to bring a slice of normalcy to the sports world

Illustration of a tennis racket hitting a coronavirus cell the size of a tennis ball.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 2021 Australian Open, which begins Monday, will be the most normal sporting event the world has seen in nearly a year.

Driving the news: Up to 30,000 spectators a day will be allowed to attend the two-week event, Victoria state sports minister Martin Pakula said this weekend.

"Over the 14 days, we will have up to 390,000 people here at Melbourne Park and that's about 50% of the average over the last three years."
— Martin Pakula

The state of play: This news comes as hundreds of players who traveled from overseas emerge from quarantine.

  • Most were allowed out of their hotel rooms for five hours a day to train, and stars like Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal are already playing exhibitions in front of thousands of fans.
  • But 72 players were forced to endure a strict 14-day lockdown after passengers on their flights tested positive — and those players only just began practicing this past weekend.
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: CSSE Johns Hopkins University; Chart: Axios Visuals

The big picture: Australia has largely contained the pandemic, limiting cases to less than 29,000 and reporting zero community transmissions on 15 of the last 16 days.

  • Fewer Australians have died in total (909) than the average number of deaths per day currently in the U.S. and Britain.
  • Offices and restaurants are open. Masks are recommended, but not required. In some respects, life has returned to near normalcy.

What's working: While the U.S. and Europe seem to prefer "the half-baked lockdown," Australia has subdued the virus through much stricter methods.

  • A single positive case in Perth on Sunday led to a five-day lockdown for 2 million people. Melbourne residents weren't allowed to leave their homes for more than an hour each day from June to October.
  • Australia has benefited from its geographic isolation, but it's also taken decisive steps like mandating hotel quarantine for international arrivals since last March — something the U.S. only just made mandatory last week.
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