Normally, a Boxing Day crowd of around 50,000 for an Ashes Test would be a disaster.
But “normally” hasn’t applied since a few days after March 8 in 2020, when the MCG hosted the women’s World Cup final, Katy Perry and a record attendance of 86,174.
So there was a sense of nervous excitement among cricket and government officials on Sunday as the MCG welcomed its first 50,000-plus crowd since early May.
As much as everyone wants a big crowd at one of Australian sport’s landmark days, Victoria recorded 1608 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday.
The mutant Omicron strain is rampant and masks are mandatory at the MCG while not seated.
But for Melbourne Cricket Club chief executive Stuart Fox, it was a welcome change from months of lockouts and lockdowns.
“It’s been a hell of a grind for us and just glad today’s here and we’re hoping for good numbers to come through the gate,” he said.
‘A great result’
“70,000 we think would be a great result today. We haven’t seen that sort of number through this stadium for some time.
“Just the pain we’ve all been through, the sporting codes, all the venues, I just think this is a bit of a milestone, particularly for Victoria.
“200,000 through these gates (for the Test) would be an amazing effort given the border issues, given the COVID issues, so what a great day for cricket.”
Just days after last year’s World Cup final – the highest Australian crowd for a women’s sporting event – Melbourne’s F1 grand prix was cancelled and the nation went into lockdown.
The last two AFL grand finals have been played interstate and crowds at the Boxing Day Test against India a year ago were capped at 30,000 per day.
This year’s Anzac Day AFL clash attracted a year-high attendance of 78,113, but from mid-July all games at the MCG had no crowds because of Melbourne’s most recent lockdown.
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