Australian Open, one of the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments, has banned fans from showcasing flags of Russia and Belarus, TASS reports citing an official announcement by Tennis Australia.
“Our initial policy was that fans could bring them in but could not use them [Russian and Belarusian flags] to cause disruption,” the statement reads. “Flags from Russia and Belarus are banned onsite at the Australian Open.” “The ban is effective immediately,” Tennis Australia added.
The Russian Embassy in Australia slammed the ban as “unacceptable politicisation of sports”.
Australia’s The Age writes that the decision was made after an incident that took place on the first day of the competitions.
According to the newspaper, fans displayed a Russian flag at the match on 16 January played between Ukraine’s Kateryna Baindl and Russia’s Kamilla Rakhimova. Other spectators were dissatisfied with this move, particularly the ones from Ukraine. “This is profoundly unsafe, the war is ongoing,” a Ukrainian fan said.
The 2023 Australian Open is held in Melbourne between 16 and 29 January. Russian and Belarusian players are cleared to compete as neutrals with unspecified nationalities.