Fans must show they’re virus-free to attend final five days of French Open


PARIS: French Open fans must show they are free from coronavirus (Covid-19) if they want to be among the small number of spectators allowed to attend the last five days of this year’s Roland Garros, organisers said on Wednesday.

French tennis federation director-general Amelie Oudea-Castera said potential spectators at the May 30-June 13 Grand Slam must demonstrate proof, from June 9, that they had a negative PCR or antigen test within 48 hours of attendance, or bear a certificate of vaccination.

“The activation of the health pass is a little revolution for us that allows us to unlock the limits a little and which will be a big first,” Oudea-Castera said.

She added that up to 5,388 spectators would be admitted at the Roland Garros site in western Paris until June 8, in line with current French government coronavirus-related regulations on fan-based events.

That figure will go up to 13,146 a day later thanks to the government’s decision to raise fan numbers to a 65% limit of actual capacity.

The tennis federation, however, has not received a waiver concerning the curfew currently in force in France, meaning there will be no fans present for the first nine evening sessions.

The nationwide curfew, presently between 7:00pm and 6:00am, will be pushed back to 9:00pm on May 19 and 11pm from June 9, meaning the 10th and final evening session, scheduled to start at 1800 GMT, will be able to be attended by a crowd of 5,000.

This year’s Roland Garros has already been pushed back by one week, with organisers hoping the Covid-19 situation in France will have improved enough to maximise the number of fans.

Last year’s Roland Garros was delayed by four months due to the pandemic. A maximum of 1,000 spectators were allowed on site each day.

In non-Covid times, the French Open was capable of welcoming 38,436 fans on a daily basis.

The tennis federation is aiming to sell 118,611 tickets this year, against some 500,000 for the last properly held pre-Covid tournament, in 2019.

“This is undoubtedly a very significant shortfall compared to a normal edition,” Oudea-Castera acknowledged. “There will be very important work on clearing up the financial situation.”

Federation president Gilles Moretton added: “Roland-Garros is the lifeblood of the French tennis economy,” with the tournament representing around 80 percent of the federation’s budget.

Players, as was the case at last year’s Roland Garros, will be lodged in two official hotels in a sanitary bubble.

“And there will be no exception,” tournament director Guy Forget said.

On arrival in Paris, players will go directly to the hotels for a test and will only receive their accreditation if that test is negative.

PCR tests will then be conducted every four days, Forget said, adding that players only had access to Roland Garros on their respective game days, but were allowed to leave their hotels for one hour a day ‘to go jogging or get a bit of air’.