COVID continues to haunt French Open

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French Open update Sept. 29, 2020 Image: Roland Garros, French Tennis Federation & Christophe Guibbaud

The French Open truly seems to have been caught in the COVID-19 crosshairs! With coronavirus rearing its ugly head back in France, the French Tennis Federation (FFT) has been dealt another blow to its fan attendance plans for this year’s French Open following Prime Minister Jean Castex stressing that the tournament must be subject to the same strict measures which have been initiated to counter the fatal respiratory disease in the country.

The 2020 French Open will commence from September 21st, 2020, and will continue till October 11, 2020.

Castex said the Grand Slam tournament must be subject to the same restrictions imposed recently on sports events taking place in designated ‘red zones’ where the virus is showing signs of escalating.

“We will apply the same rules at Roland Garros as elsewhere. We go from 5,000 to 1, 000,” Castex added.

It is understood the 1,000 figure will apply to spectators only, and not credentialed people at the Roland Garros site. The FFT was last week again forced to revise its fan attendance ambitions following orders from the Paris Police Prefecture.

Media reports stated that the accredited guests list include players, coaches, referees, ball boys and girls and members of the media, which would be close to 4,000 and therefore would not be included in the attendance cap.

Back in March, the FFT had stated that lending an avant-garde look to the Roland Garros site – which includes the setting up of a roof on the main Court Philippe-Chatrier – had facilitated the Grand Slam event to be rescheduled to autumn.

In July, the FFT announced plans to ensure a spectator capacity of 50 percent to 60 percent at the French Open, which would have allowed around 20,000 fans per day during the early stages of the tennis spectacle. Earlier this month, this was revised again with attendance capped at 11,500 per day. Last week’s announcement dropped that figure to 5,000.

Prior to Castex’s announcement, tournament Director Guy Forget had insisted that organizers would be able to safely pack in 5,000 fans on the sprawling (near-30-acre) Roland Garros site.

“We stage the tournament on the equivalent of 15 football fields, outdoors. Everyone wears a mask, even the ball boys and girls and chair umpires,” Forget added.

The qualifying rounds of the French Open are currently taking place. Last year’s French Open attracted humongous crowd – 520,000 spectators. From 520,000 spectators to just 1,000 being permitted this year speaks in volumes what a catastrophic impact COVID-19 has had on the sports venue sector – a 180 degree turn.

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