Australian Open: Organisers not expecting delays despite ongoing bushfires

Fires have been ravaging parts of Australia and creating haze pollution

Australian Open organisers "don't expect any delays" to the start of the tournament on 14 January despite the ongoing bushfires in the country.

Fires in Australia have killed at least 24 people since September and millions of hectares of land have been scorched.

Air quality in Melbourne has reached "very unhealthy" levels but tournament organisers have introduced "additional measures" to ensure it can run.

"The forecast is good," said tournament director Craig Tiley.

"We don't expect any delays and we've implemented additional measures to ensure the Australian Open will be able to run as scheduled.

"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.

"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."

Visibility in Melbourne, which hosts the opening Grand Slam of the year this month, is less than 1km (0.62 miles) in some parts of the city and surrounding areas, according to Victoria's Bureau of Meteorology. external-link

The air quality index in the city reached 213 on Monday, with a reading above 200 considered "very unhealthy".

Qualifying for the Australian Open begins on Tuesday, 14 January, with the main draw starting on 20 January.

"We are very fortunate to have three roofed-stadiums and eight indoor courts at Melbourne Park. For a number of years this has allowed us to effectively weather-proof the Australian Open," added Tiley.

"While the conditions we are currently facing are unusual, they are nothing compared to the suffering so many across Australia are experiencing at the moment. Our whole team is committed to using our events, including the Australian Open, to raise funds as part of the efforts to help these communities."

There have been no smoke-related interruptions so far at the ATP Cup, which is taking place in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, but this week's Canberra challenger event was relocated more than 450km away to Bendigo and some football and basketball matches have been cancelled.

Nick Kyrgios, Novak Djokovic and Ashleigh Barty have been among the tennis players who have pledged financial support to the relief fund.

Australian Open organisers also announced plans to raise money, including staging an "AO Rally for Relief" with a group of leading players and a music event.

"The inordinate loss of people, wildlife, stock, homes, schools and businesses is going to require an extraordinarily widespread effort to get these families and communities back on their feet," Tiley said. "Our aim is for tennis to play a significant role where we can to help that recovery."

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