Paris – A maximum of only 1,000 spectators will be allowed each day at Roland Garros after the French government insisted Thursday on tougher restrictions to counter the resurgence of the coronavirus.
Organizers of the French Open, which gets under way four months later than planned in Paris on Sunday, had hoped for a maximum of 5,000.
That figure had already been reduced from 20,000 and then 11,500.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex insisted that the Grand Slam tournament must be subject to the same restrictions imposed Thursday on sports events taking place in designated “red zones” where the coronavirus is showing signs of resurgence.
“We will apply the same rules at Roland Garros as elsewhere,” said Castex. “We go from 5,000 to 1,000.”
Sources told AFP, however, that the figure does not include credential holders such as officials, media, players and staff.
Earlier Thursday, French Open chief Guy Forget said he had hoped to protect the 5,000 limit and that the nature of the Roland Garros complex would work in the tournament’s favour.
“We are able to accommodate 5,000, as small as it is, on a 12-hectare area,” he said.
“We stage the tournament on the equivalent of 15 football fields, outdoors. Everyone wears a mask, even the ball boys and girls and chair umpires.”
The limit of 1,000 fans a day represents less than 3 percent of last year’s total attendance of almost 520,000.
There will also be financial repercussions.
In 2019, Roland Garros accounted for around 80 percent of the French Tennis Federation budget — €255.4 million out of a total €325 million.
Ticket sales generate nearly 20 percent of tournament revenue.
When the planned limit was 11,500 spectators, Forget estimated that “the tournament’s proceeds (would) be halved”, which corresponded to between €130-140 million.
The U.S. Open in New York, which ended just under two weeks ago, banned all spectators from its sprawling Flushing Meadows complex.
Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time since the Second World War.
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