Postponing the French Open by a week, to May 24 – June 13, has turned out to be a good wager. Roland-Garros will now be able to accommodate a significantly larger audience in the last five days of the tennis tournament than initially expected, following the French government’s announcement of its plan to gradually lift Covid-19 lockdown measures.
The springtime Grand Slam will be able to welcome three times fewer spectators than usual, but five times more than it did last year. The final matches of the 2021 French Open, scheduled for June 12 (women) and June 13 (men) should be able to take place before 5,000 fans, according to the timeline for lifting restrictions announced by the French government on Thursday.
For the French Tennis Federation (FFT), its April 8 decision to postpone the tournament by a week has paid off. If the tournament were to end June 6, as initially planned, the number of spectators would be significantly lower. On June 9, France will enter “Phase 3” of lifting lockdown measures, when gyms will reopen and sports arenas will be allowed up to 5,000 spectators holding passes showing they have tested negative for Covid-19 or have been vaccinated.
“I am delighted that the discussions with the public authorities, the governing bodies of international tennis, our partners and broadcasters, and the ongoing work with the WTA and ATP, have made it possible for us to postpone the 2021 Roland-Garros tournament by a week. I thank them for this,” Gilles Moretton, president of the FFT said in a statement on the Roland-Garros website.
“It will give the health situation more time to improve and should optimise our chances of welcoming spectators at Roland-Garros into our newly transformed stadium that now covers more than 30 acres. For the fans, the players and the atmosphere, the presence of spectators is vital for our tournament, the spring’s most important international sporting event,” he said.
According to the government’s timeline, Roland-Garros will be able to allow 1,000 spectators in a day for the beginning of the tournament, and then five times that number in the last five days.
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Other good news for the tournament is the pushing back of the night-time curfew from 7pm to 9pm from May 19, allowing fans to stay on if matches last until the early evening.
And the reopening of restaurants and cafés for outdoor seating, with up to six people per table, will provide an extra boost to the event’s organisers, who will be able to welcome their VIP guests under nearly normal conditions.
In what might turn out to be even better news for tennis lovers and the tournament’s organisers, the French sports daily L’Équipe reported on Friday that the Paris prefecture was considering making Roland-Garros a test event by authorising 12,500 spectators in a day, including 5,000 on the central Philippe-Chatrier court alone (the court’s full capacity in normal times is nearly 15,000 seats), and by granting a special exemption from the curfew for night matches.
There has been no official statement by the FFT regarding this possibility, other than saying on its website that it would “continue working with the French administration to set out the most suitable public health and safety conditions for organising the tournament. These health and safety protocols will be announced at a later date”.
This article has been translated from the original in French.