A crowd of 78,113 packed into the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for an Australian rules match between Collingwood and Essendon on Sunday, the highest attendance at a sports stadium anywhere in the world since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Authorities in Australia’s southern state of Victoria, of which Melbourne is the capital, on Friday raised the cap on the attendance at the 100,000-seater arena to 85,000 ahead of the traditional Anzac Day blockbuster.
Sunday’s attendance was higher than the 67,200 and 66,352 crowds attracted to the first two Twenty20 cricket matches between India and England at the 132,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad in March.
Anzac Day, which commemorates a bloody battle fought by the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) during World War One, is an iconic day in the regional calendar with bumper crowds guaranteed at sporting fixtures.
The Collingwood Magpies and Essendon Bombers, two of the best-supported teams in the Australian Football League (AFL), have met since 1995 on what is a public holiday when it falls on a weekday.
Last year, the match was played at an empty MCG but the fans were back with a vengeance at the cavernous stadium on Sunday, emitting a roar when the commemorative pre-match preliminaries were completed.