The negative reaction occurred during an award ceremony after Novak Djokovic’s victory over Daniil Medvedev in the men’s final, in which the Serb won his ninth Australian Open and 18th Grand Slam title.
During a speech by Jayne Hrdlicka, the head of Tennis Australia, audible voices could be heard in the crowd of around 7,400 spectators in Melbourne.
Hrdlicka continued speaking, only to be interrupted with more ridicule after thanking the state government. “They are a very empathetic group of people,” Hrdlicka said in response to the crowd’s reaction.
The booing incident followed an interrupted finale at the Rod Laver Arena, in which two protesters were thrown out by security guards for shouting slogans for refugees, CNN subsidiary Seven News reported. The game was also briefly interrupted when Medvedev demanded that screaming and whistling fans “show some respect” as he prepared to serve. The referee told the crowd to “please keep fair”.
It’s not clear why the crowd booed the vaccine mention.
The incident comes as Australia launches its national vaccination program on Monday, with healthcare workers and seniors among the first to get their shots.
Australia has received more than 150 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, with the first batch of Pfizer shots arriving in the country last week, according to health officials.
On Monday, Australian Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack described the behavior of viewers at the Australian Open as “disgusting,” according to Seven News. The vaccine would “bring Australia back to some sort of pre-Covid normal”. Former Australian tennis star Rennae Stubbs also described the whistling of the audience as “shameful”. Other Australian public figures, including author and astrophysicist Lisa Harvey-Smith, jointly condemned the undermining of the vaccine rollout. Harvey-Smith said viewers should “take a close look at their privilege”.
The booing at the Australian Open followed a series of small protests across the country on Saturday, with hundreds of vaccination supporters gathering to demonstrate against the vaccination program a few days before the vaccination program began.
The rallies took place in a number of major Australian cities, including Sydney and Melbourne, according to Seven News. Protesters held up signs with slogans such as “You will never take our liberty” and “My body, my choice”.
Australia is among the world’s most successful countries in containing the coronavirus, thanks to its relative isolation and highly effective Covid-19 prevention measures, including mandatory hotel quarantine for arrivals, quick lockdowns and free public testing.
Viewers were even temporarily banned from the Australian Open last week after a small outbreak in Melbourne put the city in a government-mandated lockdown for five days.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s office says that around 60,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine are expected to be administered by the end of February, but Morrison has repeatedly stated that he will not make it mandatory.
It’s difficult to measure the size of the anti-vaccination movement in Australia, which has been strengthened in recent months with the support of prominent advocates such as Anti-Immigration Senator Pauline Hanson and celebrity chef Pete Evans. Evans spoke at an anti-vaccination rally in Sydney on Saturday. According to Seven News, a survey by Essential Media in January 2021 found that one in ten Australians said they “would never be vaccinated”.