Already the weather forecast is gloomy for the fortnight, the announcements of Olivier Véran on Wednesday threw a hell of a cold on the 119th Roland-Garros, whose draw took place this Thursday evening.
Two and a half months ago, the organizers hoped to welcome 50 to 60% of their usual number of spectators daily (ie around 20,000 for the first days and 10,000 for the finals).
Three weeks ago, the French Federation (FFT) was forced to reduce the sails to a maximum of 11,500 people per day, divided into three completely independent zones (two of 5,000, one of 1,500).
Then the gauge dropped to a total of 5,000 in mid-September, with its ticket refund component to be expected.
And now the threat of a limit of 1000 spectators has come spinning like a racket from Damocles above the new roof of the Central.
"We have always respected the sanitary protocol"
“There are still a lot of question marks but we still hope, slips Guy Forget, the tournament director, who would like to obtain this Friday a prefectural exemption to escape the measure.
I hope the exchanges will be productive.
Everything that has been put in place here has been done with the agreement of the health authorities.
We are able to accommodate a population of 5,000 people on a 12 hectare stadium in conditions of maximum security.
Each restriction sends the signal that it would be dangerous to come when it is not.
We have always respected the sanitary protocol.
On the side of the FFT, as of the town hall of Paris, we are surprised to have learned the news in front of the TV, without having been informed or consulted.
And we insist on the fact that Roland Garros is the size of 15 football pitches and poses no problem for distance.
"It's much safer than taking the metro", sums up Forget, who cites the recent Tour de France as an example and its 5,000 souls on arrival on the Champs-Elysées.
Still, most fans probably plan to take public transport to come to Porte d'Auteuil…
The tournament is the economic heart of the FFT
For the federation, Roland-Garros is a major issue.
The economic lifeblood of the organization.
The fifteen of the clay represents 80% of its income.
Whatever the number of enthusiasts who cross the gates this Sunday, the shortfall is already considerable.
It was estimated at more than half of the turnover (which amounts to approximately 260 million euros) with an attendance of 11,500.
Last year, Roland-Garros received 520,000 visitors.
Ticketing occupies 18% (or 46.8 million euros), public relations 16% (41.6 million euros) and the sale of derivatives 5% (13 million euros).
We can better understand why the leaders wanted at all costs to compete for the 2020 edition. Even if it means going in force from mid-March by announcing the postponement of the spring event (May 24-June 7) to the fall without any prior consultation of the calendar with the main bodies of international tennis.
This allowed at least not to touch the 36% of revenue (93.6 million euros) generated by TV rights.
“Canceling Roland-Garros has never been an option,” FFT president Bernard Giudicelli said on Thursday evening.
This tournament has already made history given the way it was prepared and organized… ”