Jeff Kennett has lashed out at Daniel Andrews over the Victorian Premier’s comments about holding the Australian Open.
The state government has been criticised for holding the tournament amid a pandemic, with 1200 international players and officials given an exemption to fly into Melbourne from Thursday night to Saturday morning.
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Tournament organisers spent several months negotiating an arrangement that was acceptable to local and national government agencies regarding the admission of the enormous international cohort.
Players have begun arriving in Australia and they will complete a two-week period of quarantine, during which they are allowed out of their rooms to practice for five hours a day.
On Thursday, Andrews defended the decision to allow the tennis players and officials into the country at such a critical time in the fight against coronavirus, saying Australia risked losing the lucrative event.
Andrews said other countries would have pounced on the billion-dollar tournament with Melbourne risking losing hosting rights altogether, which would be a massive financial blow to the economy.
The event is the richest and biggest on the Australian sporting calendar.
“If the Australian Open does not happen in Melbourne, it will happen somewhere else,” Andrews said on Thursday.
“It will happen in Japan, it will happen in China, it will happen in Singapore. The real risk then is, it doesn't come back.
“Just focus on the future of this event - not just this year - but what not having this event this year may well mean.
“There are so many cities around the world that would do anything to have one of those grand slam events anchored in their city.
“Many ... might go ahead and build a brand-new facility from scratch to do it. You don't invite that.”
Jeff Kennett savages Daniel Andrews comments
However Andrews’ comments were not received well by Kennett - a former Victorian Premier and chairman of the Hawthorn Football Club.
“Premier says best practices. Rubbish. Victorians who are clean are being locked out of the State,” Kennett tweeted.
“Businesses have failed. We are told because health considerations must be given priority What hypocrisy! Lose the Open! How dishonest!
“Every small business person should be outraged.
“Every major sport has been disrupted. Even the Olympics deferred. Our Grand Prix deferred. Why not defer the Tennis Open?
“And to make things worse we have prioritised a player coming to Vic who has tested positive!”
Reasons. We would not have lost the Open. Every major sport has been disrupted. Even the Olympics deferred. Our Grand Prix deferred. Why not defer the Tennis Open?
And to make things worse we have prioritised a player coming to Vic who has tested positive!
— Jeff Kennett (@jeff_kennett) January 14, 2021
Why are the media so naive to accept this totally hypocritical explanation by the Premier? The double standards.
Every small business, every Victorian locked out of their home, have every right to feel in the Premiers eyes they are 4th class citizens
— Jeff Kennett (@jeff_kennett) January 14, 2021
Kennett was referring to American player Tennys Sandgren, who was allowed onto one of the charter flights to Melbourne despite testing positive earlier this week.
Sandgren returned a positive result to COVID-19 on Monday, after originally testing positive in late November, and was initially barred from the flight containing international players out of Los Angeles.
But Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville said that Sandgren was fine to travel to Australia because his body was “shedding” the virus.
“Tennys Stangren’s positive result was reviewed by health experts and determined to be viral shedding from a previous infection, so was given the all clear to fly,” she tweeted.
“No one who is COVID positive for the first time - or could still be infectious - will be allowed in for the Aus Open.”
Tennis Australia said Sandgren, like all of the 1200-strong international contingent, would be tested every day at their three hotels during the 14-day quarantine period.
The first players arrived in Melbourne on Thursday night, while mega-stars including Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, Simona Halep, Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem were on a separate charter that flew direct to Adelaide.
Just so I’m clear - it’s about the economy when it’s the tennis, but it’s about safety when it’s the CBD?
It’s about safety, keeping Vics interstate, but for the tennis, then it’s not about safety?
No inconsistency at all. https://t.co/RliMqczOzI
— David Hodgett MP (@DavidHodgettMP) January 14, 2021
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