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Australian Open makes contingency plan amid air quality concern

Organisers of the Australian Open grand slam tennis tournament have said that matches will be limited to three retractable-roof stadia and eight indoor courts if the ongoing bushfire crisis presents a risk for players and spectators.

This year’s tournament is due to take place in Melbourne from January 20 to February 2. As Australia continues to feel the effects of the devastating bushfires engulfing the country there have been concerns over safety at the tournament.

The bushfires have left 25 people dead and thousands more homeless and the air quality in Melbourne has reached “hazardous” levels as the smoke haze continues to drift.

Tournament director Craig Tiley has said that he does not anticipate any delays to the tournament with improved weather conditions expected in the coming weeks, but steps are being taken in case air quality levels do not improve.

In response to fans expressing their concerns, the official Australian Open Twitter account said: “We have three roofed stadiums and eight indoor courts at Melbourne Park. In the unlikely case of extreme smoke conditions, the roofs will be closed on the three stadium courts and play will continue in their air-conditioned and air-filtered environment.

“If smoke infiltrates the three stadium courts, the air conditioning system will filter it out.”

The indoor courts are traditionally used as practice facilities. The roofed stadia host marquee matches and are used to hold other matches that have been disrupted by the weather.

“As always, the health and safety of our players, along with our staff and our fans, is a priority, and we’ve committed substantial extra resources to analysis, monitoring and logistics to ensure this throughout the tournament,” Tiley said, according to the BBC.

“There will be meteorological and air quality experts onsite to analyse all available live data and assess in real-time the air quality at Melbourne Park, and we always work closely with our medical personnel and other local experts.

“This information will be used in a similar way to how we deal with extreme weather conditions like heat and rain.”

The new ATP Cup tournament is currently ongoing in Sydney following the unveiling of the new-look Ken Rosewall Arena last week. Tiley has said that a number of fundraising and support initiatives would be rolled out across the ATP Cup, Australian Open and other events over the coming weeks.

It was announced yesterday (Monday) that Sydney’s ANZ Stadium will host a concert on February 16 to raise money for those impacted by the ongoing bushfires. The ‘Fire Fight Australia’ concert was announced by TEG Dainty and TEG Live and will include performances from international and local artists.

Image: Melbourne & Olympic Parks