Australian Open boss Craig Tiley is hopeful the “brave” decision to host the grand slam tournament will change the way the sporting world and the wider community tackle coronavirus.
Tiley and his executive staff at Tennis Australia (TA) have been working 18-hour days, while more than 650 other employees are on deck attempting to pull off the biggest sports event since the start of the pandemic 12 months ago.
With 72 players in hard lockdown due to positive COVID-19 tests, it has already hit hurdles.
But Tiley is convinced the rewards outweigh the risks, which include a huge financial outlay for TA.
He says the tournament can be an example for the major sporting events such as the Tokyo Olympics to follow.
“You can pull off an event of this nature in a pandemic with really rigorous processes in place otherwise the risk is too high,” Tiley said.
“In this case I believe the risks have been mitigated and if we are successful there’s three massive outcomes we get from it.
“One, we signal to the world about what can be achieved and that Melbourne is the sporting capital.
“Two, I think we start to lift the psyche and the confidence of the community of the possibility that we can remain safe.
“And three, we are having an economic impact – we’re making massive investments with local farmers, local produce, local artists, local musicians, local tennis coaches, local chefs – they’re going to get significant business out of it.”
Tiley said while the tournament wouldn’t hit previous income heights of around $370 million without international guests, who contribute approximately 20 per cent, and capacity crowds, it would still be significant.
While COVID-19 vaccines are being rolled out around the world, Tiley predicted the virus to continue to impact sports events for the remainder of 2021 and said it was time to work with it.
“A few people think we’re absolutely ridiculous to be doing it but I believe we’re going to be managing this pandemic all the way through to the end of the year, at least,” he said.
“I would not be surprised if there’s two-week quarantining for a year or longer.
“Maybe we can be a model for others.”