OPINION - Novak Djokovic vs Australia

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 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

The Evening Standard is first and foremost a local paper, albeit serving a global city. As such, this newsletter likes to focus not only on national issues, but on the stories and subjects that matter to Londoners.

Having got that out of the way, we have to start 10,500 miles away in Melbourne, where Novak Djokovic is having a bit of a day, given he has just been denied entry into Australia due to a visa complication.

A bit of background. The world number one tennis player, who spent much of 2021 adopting a policy of strategic ambiguity over whether or not he had been vaccinated, revealed yesterday he had received a medical exemption to enter the country.

This is not the first time Djokovic’s medical choices have fallen under scrutiny. In 2020, he proclaimed his belief on an Instagram live that gratitude can transform polluted water “into the most healing water.”

The decision to grant Djokovic, 34, a medical exemption has been greeted with widespread condemnation in Australia, and it isn’t hard to see why.

First, the city of Melbourne, where the Australian Open takes place, has endured one of the longest and most stringent lockdowns in the world.

And second, there remain many fully vaccinated people who are unable to visit family and friends Down Under due to travel restrictions.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned that Djokovic would be on the “next plane home” if he fails to provide sufficient evidence for his exemption.

Things then took another turn in the last few hours, when Djokovic was denied entry into Australia. The Age reported a source saying that the player was attempting to enter the country on a visa that does not permit medical exemptions for being unvaccinated.

Yes, alright, I’m a Roger Federer fan and so I’m not a strictly neutral observer here. But if you thought Bart Simpson offended the Aussies, you should see what they are saying about Djokovic.

In the comment pages, Tom Newton Dunn writes that Boris Johnson needs a Blair-like focus to save his party from mission vacuum. He also has some excellent gossip on the best political Christmas card senders.

Meanwhile, Simon English predicts that this year should be better than the last, as big business is learning how to cope with the new normal.

And finally, it’s only Wednesday on the first week back from Christmas so this could be interpreted as more micro-aggression than helpful, but Jochan Embley has put together a lovely list of fun things that presumably interesting people could do in London this weekend.

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