Roland Garros daily limit of 1,000 fans a setback

PARIS • French Open chief Guy Forget yesterday admitted that a government order to limit attendance at Roland Garros to a maximum of 1,000 fans each day was a "tough blow" for the Grand Slam.

Organisers of the clay-court tournament, which gets under way tomorrow in Paris four months later than originally planned, had hoped for a maximum of 5,000 people.

That figure had already been twice revised, first from 20,000 to 11,500, and on Thursday, the French government declared that tougher restrictions were needed to counter the resurgence of the coronavirus in the country.

"We've taken note of the government's decision. We're ready, all the players are here, but it's true it's a tough blow for the tournament," said Forget, who had hoped the strict safety measures such as the compulsory wearing of masks for everyone and safe distancing would appease the authorities.

French Prime Minister Jean Castex said that the Grand Slam, the final one of this season, must be subject to the same restrictions as all other sports events taking place in the designated "red zones", where there is a second wave of the Covid-19 disease.

"We will apply the same rules at Roland Garros as elsewhere," he said. "We go from 5,000 to 1,000."

Sources told Agence France-Presse, however, that the figure does not include credential holders such as officials, the media, players and staff.

The daily limit of 1, 000 fans over 15 days represents less than 3 per cent of last year's total attendance of almost 520, 000.

There will also be financial repercussions.

Last year, Roland Garros accounted for around 80 per cent of the French Tennis Federation's budget - €255.4 million (S$409.7 million) out of a total €325 million - with ticket sales generating nearly 20 per cent of total tournament revenue.

But despite the stringent cap on crowd size, the French Open is set to become just the second event after last week's Italian Open in Rome, to allow for spectators in some sort of capacity since the ATP and WTA tours were shut down from March for five months.

The US Open in New York, which ended just under two weeks ago, banned all spectators from its sprawling Flushing Meadows complex, while Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since World War II.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2020, with the headline 'Roland Garros daily limit of 1,000 fans a setback'. Print Edition | Subscribe