Fans must show they’re virus-free to attend Roland Garros

PARIS (AFP) – French Open fans must show they are free from COVID-19 if they want to be among the small number of spectators allowed to attend this year’s Roland Garros, organisers said yesterday.

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

Oudea-Castera 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 from June 9 thanks to the government’s decision to raise fan numbers to a 65 per cent 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.

File photo shows spectators watching Spain’s Rafael Nadal play against Argentina’s Juan Martin del Potro during their men’s singles semi-final match on day 13 of The Roland Garros 2018 French Open tennis tournament in Paris. PHOTO: AFP

The nationwide curfew, presently between 7pm and 6am, will be pushed back to 9pm 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-19 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-19 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 per cent of the federation’s budget.