Melbourne “famous hotel for maggots” at the center of the Djokovic vaccine saga
He’s the world’s number one tennis player with more than $ 150 million in prize money to his name – but this year Melbourne reportedly hosted Novak Djovokic in a hotel known for immigrant detentions and maggot infested food.
The nine-time Australian Open champion was deprived of his entry visa by border control officials for failing to provide sufficient evidence that he was fully vaccinated against Covid-19 or that he was had a valid medical exemption.
As he launches a legal battle to overturn the visa decision and defend his title in a tournament in just 10 days, the 34-year-old Serb is reportedly largely staying at the city’s Park Hotel.
The dark brown brick and concrete building is a far cry from the residence Djokovic took advantage of last year, when strict Covid-19 restrictions forced players to exercise in their hotel rooms and balconies for a while. their quarantine.
Next, Djokovic reportedly sent a letter to Tennis Australia complaining about the conditions of the luxury hotel and demanding that players stay in private homes with tennis courts and better food.
This year he would be in a facility with around 32 inmates who cannot leave the hotel and no one is allowed in or out except the staff. Migrants say the rooms are relatively small.
Australian border control authorities have refused to confirm the player’s whereabouts.
The Park Hotel gained notoriety last December when a fire in the building forced refugees and asylum seekers to be evacuated. One person was hospitalized for smoke inhalation. There were no deaths.
A week later, asylum seekers posted images on social media showing food served to them allegedly filled with maggots alongside moldy pieces of bread.
Earlier in October, 21 men reportedly contracted Covid at the facility, which has been the scene of regular protests.
– ‘So sad’ –
Detainee Mehdi Ali told AFP that although Djokovic is his favorite tennis player, he was saddened by the prospect of the star being held there.
“The media will talk more about us, probably the whole world, which is so sad, just because Djokovic would be there for a few days.”
Nearly 180 people were released from detention at the Park Hotel last year.
Most of the remaining people were reportedly brought to Australia for medical treatment after their detention off the small Pacific island of Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
In a previous life it was known as Hotel Rydges and in 2020 served as a Covid-19 quarantine hotel. He was accused of being the source of a wave of infections in the city.
As Djokovic waited in his new temporary home for news of his legal battle, a crowd of a few dozen fans gathered in a nearby park to play music and protest his detention.
“Do you know how I feel? I feel sad,” said Gordana, a Djokovic supporter. “And to feel that I lost part of my heart because of Djokovic. Djokovic is (like my) son.”
Outside the building, around 20 activists protested Australia’s strict immigration policies put in place to prevent people from entering by boat. The police were standing nearby.
A banner hung from the canopy of the building read: “Abolish detention centers”.
Others have gathered to protest the restrictions they have been subjected to to restrict Covid-19, as well as to seek other freedoms.
“I am here on behalf of all the people who are fighting for the freedom whether it is for the refugees, whether it is Novak whether it is the people in general, the public, far beyond these mandates which are fed up with ‘be restricted,’ said Ryan Guszich.
“And freedom in general. And, you know, it’s our body, our choice.”
strs-djw / arb / ssy