Ouch! I am sure this headline will instantly divide opinions as similar statements have been appearing in the media since the Victorian Government announced that the Australian Open would go ahead in Melbourne in February.
From my perspective it’s not just a discussion on whether international tennis players should be allowed to come into the country whilst Australian citizens are forced to wait – that’s for those way above my pay grade to argue.
The Australian Open needs to happen as it is an event that encapsulates the tourism, hospitality and events industries here in Victoria which have been, and still are, severely depleted by the pandemic.
The Tennis is one of our longest running, major hallmark events which last year had an economic impact of over $400 million to the Victorian economy. Very simply that equates to a lot of jobs that rely on events such as the Tennis to take place.
Think of the hotels, restaurants, caterers, hiring companies, taxis, AV companies etc – the list goes on and on.
I’m not one of those directly involved, but plenty of suppliers I work with are and to them an Australian Open at a quarter of its usual size is better than nothing.
Many felt the pain of the Grand Prix postponement announced last week, so having the Tennis go ahead is important financially but it is also a massive confidence boost that there may be some light at the end of the tunnel. I would go so far as to say that the Grand Prix needs the Tennis to happen for it to have the best chance of going ahead in November.
The Tennis is part of Melbourne’s brand DNA and showcases our city as the event capital of the world. It is important that we show that we are open for business and can deliver events better, and safer, than anywhere else in the current climate.
It would be highly doubtful that with the COVID numbers currently being reported in the UK, Europe and the US that the other Grand Slams could even go ahead at present – even with restricted numbers.
So, what’s the alternative if we just say it’s all too hard and not worth effort? If we took that approach, then we would be left with virtually no live events of any description – bar the odd wedding – for months to come. Right now, this issue is all about a city showing leadership and instilling confidence that we can do this and do it safely and successfully.
Throw out the ’too hard basket’ as that is not an option. Instead, by supporting Tennis Australia we set a precedence for other iconic events to follow such as the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, Melbourne Fashion Festival and Comedy Festival and dare I say it also the AFL Grand Final and Spring Racing Carnival. As well, there are all the other sporting, cultural and business events that happen across the state. We should not overlook the massive impact that COVID has had on regional Victoria as well as Melbourne.
So, political beliefs aside, I say good on you Tennis Australia and the Victorian Government for putting in the hard work to get the Tennis up and running and to not be swayed by a few public doubters and some whingeing tennis players who have been forced to obey the hard rules needed to ensure the event is safe. At least these players have a job unlike many in our industry at the moment.
It’s going to be a bumpy ride, and with the industry now also at the mercy of last-minute border closures, we still have a long way to go.
Rest assured the rest of the world will not just be watching the tennis, but also watching how Melbourne responds.