Sumo tournaments postponed as Japan coronavirus cases spread

 

TOKYO, Japan – Two sumo tournaments scheduled for later this year have been postponed, the Japan Sumo Association said Friday, April 3, the latest sporting events to fall victim to the coronavirus spreading in Japan.

The next sumo "basho" or tournament, scheduled to open on May 10 in Tokyo – host city of the next Olympics, which have been postponed to 2021 – will be delayed by two weeks, the JSA said. The July basho suffered the same fate.

The JSA has not yet decided whether the tournaments would be held without spectators, a spokesman told AFP.

"Today we just rescheduled the two tournaments, but we can't say anything more as the situation is changing day by day," he said.

The spring basho, held last month in Osaka, took place without a crowd, the wrestlers surrounded by just a handful of judges in the empty arena.

It was however broadcast live on national TV, allowing viewers to hear sounds normally drowned out by the crowd, such as the wrestlers slapping their bellies and scraping their feet on the clay ring.

During that tournament, all wrestlers had their temperature checked twice a day as some rituals were amended, including the traditional ladle of water that a winning wrestler offers to the next in the ring.

Sumo stars have been taking precautions at fan events, refraining from shaking hands and wearing surgical masks, while a ceremonial visit to a shrine was canceled.

The no-spectator sumo tournament came after the government asked operators of sports and entertainment venues to consider cancelling or postponing mass gatherings to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Late Friday, Japan's professional baseball and football leagues gave up plans to play in April after receiving warnings from infectious control experts.

Nippon Professional Baseball, which had already delayed opening this season until April 24, decided to extend its postponement. 

Meanwhile, football's J-League – scheduled to resume games in late April – also withdrew plans without setting a resumption date.

Earlier this week, organizers said the Tokyo Olympics would begin on July 23 next year after the coronavirus forced the historic decision to postpone the 2020 Games until 2021.

Japan has seen a relatively low number of coronavirus cases, but a recent spike in Tokyo has fueled speculation that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will soon declare a state of emergency. – Rappler.com