The Sydney Royal Easter Show has made an extraordinary and triumphant return after the COVID-19 pandemic shut the gates last year.
- The Royal Easter Show may well be the biggest ticketed event in the world in 2021
- 700,000 people have gathered without a single COVID case
- With no insurance the RAS took a huge risk to bring the country to the city again
With major events cancelled here and abroad, this could be the biggest ticketed event in the world in 2021, with almost 700,000 people expected to go through the gates by the time it closes on Monday night.
Staging the event was a “massive risk”, according to the man responsible for running the event safely.
Darryl Jeffrey, the chief operating officer for the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS), said he sat down with NSW Health last year to discuss the likelihood of going ahead with the event.
He was surprised by how supportive the department was.
“At that stage, the most they had approved was 50,000 for the NRL Grand Final, and we essentially wanted to run the largest attended event in the world.”
It could have turned into a public health disaster for the RAS if there had been a COVID outbreak.
“We lost millions of dollars last year. We knew we were going to lose money again on this year’s show, but we thought we needed to do it again.
“We didn’t want to be two years of not having the Easter show.”
He said the other reason the RAS, a not-for profit association, wanted to go ahead was to provide some inspiration for the events sector.
“If we could get this event off the ground, the rest of the events industry in NSW and Australia would say, ‘If you can run the Easter Show, you can run anything’, because you don’t get any bigger.”
Ground-breaking technology tracks numbers
Numbers at the show were capped at 60,000 people a day — a big cut given 129,000 people passed through the gates on Good Friday in 2019.
New technology developed by Sydney company PMY Group was used to track the number of people at the event and in the pavilions.
The system tracks body mass and traffic lights at the entry indicates when venues are getting close to COVID capacity.
PMY has developed systems for other major venues around Australia, including Flemington racecourse, the Sydney Cricket Ground and other stadiums in Melbourne and Perth.
There hasn’t been a single breach of protocols at the Royal Easter and no cases of COVID-19, according to Mr Jeffrey.
“Western Sydney Health have visited a number of times and they haven’t mentioned anything of major concern that they want us to adjust,” he said.
Sleepless nights as Queensland locks down
The Brisbane outbreak of COVID-19 just two days before the start of the Easter show threatened to cancel this year’s event as well.
The RAS was prepared to take advice from NSW Health if the risk was deemed to great and Mr Jeffrey said there were some sleepless nights as that outbreak unfolded.
“We sent an email to every single person who had bought an Easter Show ticket reminding them of their obligations.”
The world is watching
Show society groups from around Australia have visited the Sydney Royal to see what lessons have been learnt.
Other countries are also interested, according to Mr Jeffrey.
“They could not believe what we were doing.”
It could well be that, like the Australian film industry, major global events may come to Australia on the back of the success of the Royal Easter Show.