It is usually refreshing at the beginning of each new year to see that activities around the world continue mostly to be surreal, rather than stunted due to a pandemic or other geopolitical concerns.
It’s odd that sports seem to be immune to many of the rules that we have all had to struggle under.
The English football Premiership was the first mass-event spectacle that allowed fans back on the terraces here in my neck of the woods.
I have always loved sports, even though players get paid far too much and the whole thing normally is a circus that we could all ignore.
Already this year, there is the strange tale of tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic gaining entry into the Australian Open tournament without showing his vaccination status, but by applying for a medical exemption.
Last week Australia denied him entry, canceled his visa and said he didn’t meet the requirements for exemption from vaccination requirements.
Djokovic is on record, although not for a while, saying he is against vaccinations, which of course does not mean he has not been vaccinated, but with Australia’s strict pandemic restrictions, even to the point of not allowing cross-state travel, it is strange as to why Djokovic has gone through this ordeal.
Is it a matter of sports money obliterating all other concerns, or a lack of clarity from the Australian Open?
According to Reuters, the tennis champion was holed up in the Park Hotel in the Melbourne suburb of Carlton, which has been used as a quarantine hotel since the end of 2020.
There will be no unnecessary embarrassment for hoteliers, as this hotel’s purpose at this moment is to provide hospitality for people needing to isolate.
Also, there has been criticism from his native Serbia that somehow Australia is picking on this one Balkan country, rather than really focusing on safeguarding its population, but this is not surreal, just worrying.
It may be that Australia has had a terrible record of trying to safeguard its population, or that its politicians were forced into a kneejerk reaction following protests within the country, but the mere fact that Djokovic is now the center of a storm has created a surreal episode of darkest comedy, which I both relish and bemoan.
It also might undermine future travel and safety protocols.
At any rate, the tennis tournament begins on Jan. 17 and lasts for two weeks. Let’s hope area hotels do well.
Just as in the United Kingdom, where there were countless rumors of Christmas parties being held in the corridors of power while everyone else was not allowed to gather in almost any number, episodes such as this Australian debacle merely pose the question as to why you and I should bother to be conscientious when clearly others, the powerful and connected, seemingly do not need to be.
It is human nature to want to cut corners in some areas of life.
The organizers of the tennis championship said all the correct checks had been made regarding Djokovic’s entry, although I do not remember them saying what these were, and now that there has been a backlash against them, the latest move is that they are now checking other competitors’ vaccination statuses.
Is that to make us feel better about the whole spectacle, or just Djokovic?
The very, very latest, as readers are probably aware, is that on Jan. 10 an Australian court ruled Djokovic is allowed to leave his “detention” hotel, although it is still not known whether he will compete in the tournament and what reception he will receive.
His family now have spun around faster than a smashed return of a deep lob and said they suddenly have nothing but love for Australia.
Back in the U.K., the latest move is that travelers, including Brits, coming to the U.K. no longer have to take PCR tests in the two days before they arrive. No doubt, that offers encouragement to the hotel and travel industries.
Brits still have to take PCR tests before they leave the U.K. if the country they’re visiting requires them.
That is news of a concrete stature, not a surrealistic one, although the pricing, tender processes and accusations of cronyism connected with PCR-test payments probably could be included in the “surreal” category.
The adjective “surreal” can be attributed to issues and developments that are gloriously strange and fun as well as to those that are worrying, but I think most of us would prefer 2022 to just be normal.
Contact Terence Baker at [email protected].
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