78,113 attend Australian Rules match to set pandemic record

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — More than 78,000 Australian Rules football fans crowded the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday for an Australian Football League match between Collingwood and Essendon — the biggest crowd for a sports event since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The crowd of 78,113 topped the 67,000 who attended a Twenty20 cricket international between India and England at Ahmedabad last month.

The Anzac Day match is one of the traditional highlights of the Aussie rules season, when sport combines with a solemn national commemoration. Anzac Day — April 25 — is the day on which Australians commemorate those who served in both world wars and in other conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

The match didn't take place last year because of the pandemic and crowds since have been down on previous years.

But a decision by the government in Victoria state to allow the Melbourne Cricket Ground to be filled to 85 percent of its capacity led to Sunday’s record turnout.

The stadium has a capacity of just over 100,000.

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