Australian Open Turmoil Raises Questions For Tokyo Games

Sydney (CNN)The quarantine controversy over tennis’ Australian Open has raised questions about whether large-scale international sporting events can take place in the middle of a pandemic and could offer a preview of the difficulties facing this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.
Players arriving in the Australian state of Victoria have been placed into a 14-day quarantine ahead of their grand slam matches. Most have been allotted five hours each day to go out and train in strict bio-secure bubbles, but 72 players have been unable to leave their hotel rooms and cannot practice, under strict quarantine rules after passengers on their flights tested positive for Covid-19.
Some tennis stars have expressed anger and frustration at being kept cooped up ahead of the first grand slam of the tennis season. They include record eight-time Australian Open men’s singles winner Novak Djokovic, who put forward a list of proposals that would loosen the restrictions on the quarantining stars, including moving players to houses with courts, better food, and reducing the number of days in isolation.
In response, Victoria State Premier Daniel Andrews said: “People area free to provide lists of demands, but the answer is no.”
Athletes have also raised concerns over whether those who can go out and train would have an unfair advantage over their competitors who have to isolate.
Canadian player Vasek Pospisil was a passenger on one of the three flights into Melbourne that had a handful of positive Covid-19 tests from those on board, meaning he is barred from going out to train during quarantine.
He told CNN that the level of risk of an entire group on a flight having to undergo strict quarantine wasn’t properly communicated to the players ahead of time, a claim Tennis Australia refutes.
All the players, we understood that if somebody tested positive that it would just be the group, like if somebody in your staff tested positive, then you would have to be quarantined; you wouldn’t be able to practice. There wasn’t any discussion about the whole plane going that way, so obviously it was a huge surprise to everybody,” he said from his hotel room in Melbourne.
But many Australians appear to have little sympathy for the athletes, many of whom have flown in from coronavirus hotspots to compete for a share of total prizes worth 71.5 million Australian dollars ($55.1 million).
The Victoria state capital Melbourne, the second-most populous city in Australia, was under a hard lockdown for 111 days last year. Residents contended with a curfew, closures of businesses, bans on leaving their homes, online schooling and job losses.
Some Melbourne residents expressed concerns about the impact on the community once the players have left post tournament. Many are worried restrictions could be reimposed if the virus — particularly new, potentially more transmissible variants — managed to get into the population because of the tournament.