14.01.2022Melbourne must learn from the 2022 Australian Open Djokovic experience as a world class major sporting and events capital

14 January 2022

Melbourne must learn from the 2022 Australian Open experience to reclaim its place as a world class major sporting and events capital

In 2021, Melbourne’s management of the Australian Open challenge in a world of COVID was best in class. It added to our glowing reputation as a Grand Slam event host.

The start of 2022 looks quite different.

The Djokovic visa and vaccination saga has reflected poorly on all those involved which is a tragedy considering the excellence of our infrastructure and tournament planning.

The confusion between the Djokovic Camp, Tennis Australia, Victorian Government and Federal Government highlights the confusion about rules and interpretation of the rules and how uncoordinated the situation has become. It has also brought out the worst in social and other media which, no matter who is right or wrong, has shown a vindictive and intolerant face of Australia which we can ill afford as we seek to open up again to the world.

Unfortunately, perhaps unjustly, this will reflect badly on Melbourne. As Australia’s Global Events and Sporting Capital we really want to be seen as competent and welcoming as we emerge from being one of the world’s most locked down jurisdictions in 2020 and 2021.

How quickly the afterglow of the successful Melbourne Boxing day Cricket test against England has been washed away with the blame game now in full swing. We need to move quickly to focus on what we do best, holding world class events.

In 2022 Melbourne is host to at least 14 hallmark events from marquee sporting events to international theatre and arts and culture festivals. The Australian Open, Formula 1® Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Harry Potter, Moulin Rouge, the NGV’s Gabrielle Chanel Fashion Manifesto, International Flower and Garden Show and RISING are all set to take place in the first 6 months of this year.

The Australian Grand Prix in early April is the third in the annual World F1 Grand Prix calendar and our first GP since 2019. Under FIA ruling no one can be accredited to the Grand Prix paddock area unless they are vaccinated, so we must hope and expect that the confusion over vaccination status will not be an issue for this particular event. Nor should it be for any future events.

Working through the facts which led to the AO situation, there is no doubt that more purposeful coordination and collaboration between jurisdictions and organisations could have prevented some of the more embarrassing aspects of this public relations debacle.

It also shines a spotlight on a lack of planning and consistency that is having broader and deeper ramifications across the economy, such as skills shortages impacting on all facets of our economy, especially on our events and visitor economy.

Since COVID 19 struck in 2020, the Committee for Melbourne’s Road to Recovery message has been consistent: we must be more collaborative across industry and the various layers of Government as we learn to live with the ongoing pandemic whilst rebuilding our liveability and prosperity.

Nowhere is this more important than in the acceleration of the vaccine roll-out, rapid antigen testing availability, effective isolation, and a nationally consistent and internationally recognisable system for vaccine passports, engaging business and the community for successful delivery.

If we can open up and support our business and community, Melbourne’s foundational attributes such as open spaces, arts and culture, research and education institutions can once again prosper and thrive as restrictions are eased.

More than any other city in Australia, Melbourne depends on its visitor and service economy. We are Australia’s sporting, cultural and knowledge capital. We have to be open for business-our future depends on it.

We cannot let the Australian Open debacle set the tone for the rest of this and future years and leave the door wide open for others to step in and take our crown, which they will take every opportunity to do.

We must learn the lessons of the Australian Open experience quickly and reclaim our place as a world class major events and sporting capital.


Martine Letts


13 January 2022


Read The Age article

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