COVID-safe rules for Australian Open unveiled
Spare seats will buffer groups of fans at the Australian Open as tennis chiefs serve up the biggest sporting event staged before spectators in the coronavirus era.
With fewer tickets than ever for Victoria's tennis showpiece, organisers expect several days to sell out and have created strict rules for fans and players to ensure the event is COVID-safe.
Players will be urged to tap racquets rather than high five and wear face shields in private areas off-court when the event begins on Monday.
Fans will be ordered to carry a face mask at all times with at least one seat - and in some areas several - separating groups of up to six allowed to sit together at a Melbourne Park grand slam like no other.
Fans will be forced to enter personal details via QR code before watching matches on outside courts or entering restaurants and bars, to aid contact tracing.
And with fans this year restricted to three strict areas - to be fenced off and patrolled by security - spectators will have to enter the tennis precinct via gates specific to their ticket.
With crowds of up to 30,000 a day for the first eight days then 25,000 from the quarterfinals, Australian Open chief operating officer Tom Larner said Melbourne fans would be out in force.
"It will probably be a bit of a crowd record in a COVID environment but for us it's not about records,'' he said.
"It's about giving the best fan experience we can possibly give and obviously to be able to have this event at this time is huge for us and great for people to get out and experience life a bit normal in a safe environment.''
Up to 12,500 fans a day will be admitted to the Rod Laver Arena Zone, 10,000 to the Margaret Court Arena Zone and 7500 to the John Cain Arena area.
Mr Larner said seat spacing between different groups would be maximised, depending on ticket sales.
"During the day we space people out more, based on our capacity," he said. "It will be different across the arenas but the minimum is that people will have a seat between different groups.''
He said QR codes would be used across dining and hospitality spaces as well as in the stands for fans to register where they've been onsite.
Masks will not be compulsory inside stadiums but must be carried in case fans are unable to physically distance.
"Whether that's in a queue or you can't maintain 1.5m, that's when you are asked to put on your mask,'' he said.
Originally published as COVID-safe rules for Australian Open unveiled