Wimbledon is expected to step up security at this year’s Championships to prevent a repeat of the pro-Russian demonstrations that erupted at the Australian Open on Wednesday.
Cheers in support of Russia were allowed to play for several minutes before the guards appeared in Melbourne Park, and even then, they initially stood and watched before taking action. Eventually, the police got involved and four of the main agitators were questioned.
The All England Club is expected to welcome Russians and Belarusians to Wimbledon this summer, despite all the outrageous images of pro-Putin demonstrators gathered on the steps of the Rod Laver Arena following Novak Djokovic’s quarter-final win over Russia’s Andrey Rublev. .
Players from these two countries were arguably banned from last year’s championships as punishment for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
While the AELTC committee has yet to finalize its decision on this year’s championships, the main difference is that the government’s stance is much less rigid.
In the spring of 2022, then sports minister Nigel Huddleston was keen to warn athletes from Russia and Belarus that they would need to sign a declaration of independence in order to compete in the UK. “If people say they are impartial, we want assurances that they are indeed impartial, and therefore there is no affiliation with Putin,” Huddleston said.
Now there is a different sports minister, Stuart Andrew, and a less confrontational policy. The Ministry of Culture, Media and Sports recognizes that it is difficult for Wimbledon to stand alone in a tennis world where Russians and Belarusians participate in all other events. Especially after the AELTC were treated by two rounds last season, their ranking points were removed and they were fined £250,000 for breaking the rules.
Telegraph Sport reported in December that the AELTC – along with the LTA – is ready to lift its ban on Russian and Belarusian players, and it appears that position will not change regardless of what happens in Australia this week. This includes the embarrassing episode of 21-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic, whose father Srdjan was seen implicated in pro-Putin demonstrations and saying “Long live the Russians” in a video released Wednesday night.
According to a Tennis Australia statement, “After a game on Wednesday night, a small group of people displayed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards and were evacuated. A boss is now helping the police with unrelated matters.”
Organizers also reminded Djokovic and his family that they should not support political causes after Srdjan mingled with pro-Russian demonstrators chanting “Russia, Serbia, Russia, Serbia” and raising a flag showing Putin’s face.
Wimbledon’s safety priorities this summer will include bag searches to find and remove unwanted flags. But it is difficult to prevent people from wearing politicized clothing. On Wednesday, a Serbian supporter showed up in a white shirt with Novak Djokovic’s name on it, and later revealed a black shirt printed with the pro-war “Z” symbol.