In the Steffi Graf Stadium, in the middle of Berlin's Grunewald residential district, the pandemic was discovered right at the entrance. A hygiene course had to be completed, with a corona questionnaire, temperature measurement and a disinfection lock. Disinfectant steam flowed around every visitor from an octagonal structure that resembled body scanners at airports. You were fogged for a few seconds, then you were through.
Will this be the sport of the future? At least from a visitor's perspective, the tennis tournament in Berlin provided information about how sporting events could feel in the future. While the Bundesliga still had to get by without spectators, organizers across the country are thinking about how to let visitors back into their arenas. The tournament in Berlin was also the first major German sporting event since the pandemic began.
This was based on a 59-page hygiene concept. Masks were ready at the entrance for every spectator. Masks were required on the entire site, only in the stadium itself, with loose seating with three free seats between individuals or groups of people from the same household, the textile was allowed to be removed.
Don't throw the balls back!
Whoever played could of course do so without a mask. The tennis balls popped everywhere on the course, because the club business with leisurely serving older men and numerous training groups of children and teenagers continued during the professional tournament. Top-class sport was embedded in the - albeit upscale - national sport. There was also respect for Corona. "Keep your distance," said a tennis boy in a clear voice, as visitors passed too close to one of the entrances to the club grounds.
There were also special rules on the lawn. The coin toss was started virtually. The ball children also wore gloves and masks. Instead of a handshake or hug at the end of the match, only the rackets were tapped together. The spectators were even asked not to throw the balls that jumped onto the stands back onto the court. No virus spreading from smear infection please. You could take the balls home, as well as the pillows you were sitting on. Novel giveaways in spectator sport under pandemic conditions.
But the Berlin tennis fans weren't really convinced at first. According to the organizer, 480 tickets were sold on the first day. The Berlin Senate had allowed 850 spectators in the 4,500-seat arena. "We could only start selling online ten days before the start," said tournament spokesman Karlheinz Wieser. "And maybe some were careful about Corona," he guessed. On the second day, according to information from tournament director Barbara Rittner, around 750 tickets were sold; on the third day, some who had bought a ticket - which was later reduced to 75 euros - might have stayed at home due to constant rain and postponement.
But whoever was there ensured a good atmosphere. Like Bianca Krahl. She wasn't afraid of the virus, she said. Rather, the small number of spectators could also have something to do with the admission prices, 120 to 150 euros. "Yes, the prices are crisp," said Bianca Krahl, who was granted a discount as a member of the LTTC Rot Weiß. "The pricing will also be different next year," she hopes.
The organizer Edwin Weindorfer justified the high prices with the costs for the extended security concept. As a viewer selection about the money, he did not want to see the pricing. "In Corona times, such a tournament doesn't pay off economically anyway. You have to be happy if you can do anything at all," he said. After all, his tournament could be a pioneer. Representatives of the ATP and WTA tour had announced their arrival to check the Berlin concept for suitability for larger events.