Public set to be barred from Longchamp for Enable's historic Arc hat-trick bid
The general public will almost certainly be absent from Longchamp for Enable’s historic attempt at a third Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, with race organisers now resigned to having to live within the current limit of 5,000 people on a racecourse.
France Galop had hoped to gain a dispensation from Paris police and city authorities to welcome 15,000 to 20,000 people to a socially distanced Arc.
But, with the French government now prohibiting localities with elevated levels of Covid-19 infections from applying such exemptions to the 5,000-person limit on public gatherings, the decision was taken at a meeting on Wednesday to proceed with plans to stage an 'industry-only' Arc.
That will comprise owners, trainers and other racing professionals in addition to media for the centenary running of Europe’s premier Flat race.
Visitors from Britain and Ireland already faced the prospect of a 14-day quarantine on their return but those who went ahead and booked tickets in the hope – shared by the organisers – that a reasonable crowd might be allowed to attend, will hear in more detail over the coming days about plans to offer either a refund or a deferral to the 2021 Arc.
France Galop chief executive Olivier Delloye said: "We have not received authorisation from the Paris police prefecture to have more than 5,000 people. As we feared might happen Paris has become one of the red zones in terms of the circulation of the virus and the prefects are no longer allowed to consider any exemption.
"We are now planning for an Arc with 5,000 people at Longchamp. Unfortunately that number means no admission to the general public and it will be an Arc limited to the staff working at the racecourse, as well as trainers, owners and breeders with runners and limited entourages.
"There is a tiny hope that in the coming weeks we might be allowed to add a separate watertight zone on the racecourse for another 5,000 people. I think the chances are extremely thin that we will be allowed to do that but we have to hold out hope. In reality, it looks like an Arc with only 5,000 people."
The news will come as a huge disappointment to those who have made the trip to Longchamp an annual affair, although it will not perhaps come as a great surprise following the latest communications from the French government, as well as the upward trend of new Covid-19 cases in several parts of the country, including the Ile de France.
French racing has fared well compared to many other sports since its return on May 11.
The Tour de France belatedly got under way last Saturday and crowds have been allowed along the route although with restrictions in terms of how close they can get to the riders.
Just down the road from Longchamp, Roland Garros is due to host the delayed French Open in late September and early October and the French Tennis Federation is continuing in its efforts to gain approval for more than 5,000 to attend.
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