The organizers of the annual Sydney Mardi Gras – one of the biggest LGBTQ gatherings in the world – have announced they will be doubling its capacity as the country continues to win the fight against COVID-19.
The annual event takes place in late February and early March. Although many of the smaller, arts-related events will continue as normal, for 2021 the signature parade will be moved off the street and take place instead within Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on Saturday, March 6, 2021.
Because of social distancing measures, organizers said in November that they would be selling 23,000 tickets for spectators: half the SCG’s capacity. Those with tickets could watch the traditional parade of community groups (although with fewer big floats this year). However, it’s now been announced that they have doubled the number of tickets they will sell – and can now accommodate 46,000 people.
That’s still a big reduction in the numbers who would normally line Oxford Street in Sydney, but a great increase on the original amount of spectators.
Australia has had only 28,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the last year (with less than 1,000 deaths), and hardly any since the beginning of October.
Most of the reported cases in the last couple of months have been visitors, who have been tested on arrival and had to isolate to prevent spreading the infection. Because of this, life in Australia means fewer restrictions than other countries (although its citizens are still being asked to avoid traveling abroad in case they bring the virus back home).
Because of the increased capacity, organizers say they can also now give more tickets away for free to those in need. Regular tickets usually cost AUS$20 for adults (US$15).
“We understand that 2020 has been a challenging year for many members of our LGBTQI+ communities, and in response to those who are experiencing financial hardship as a result, we announced Mardi Gras would hold a free ticketing ballot for the Parade back in November,” said Mardi Gras CEO Albert Kruger.
“We are extremely pleased that the easing of restrictions means we can extend our offering to 2,000 free tickets in total, ensuring that as many people as possible can celebrate their Pride with us in person on the night.”