The troubled sport of sumo lurches from one crisis to the next ahead of the opening of the annual Nagoya tournament this Sunday.
Rocked by revelations of betting scandals and connections with Japan's underworld, the sport is seeking to restore its tarnished reputation beginning with this weekend's basho.
Champion wrester Kotomitsuki and stablemaster Otake have both been fired from the over 1,300 year-old-sport and 18 other wrestlers have been suspended from the upcoming tournament by the Japan Sumo Association (JSA).
Sumo was already a sport in serious decline before the latest scandals broke: allegations of drug use, the hazing death of a young trainee and nagging accusations of bout-rigging that refuse to go away.
The sport is no longer popular with Japan's youth and the best wrestlers now come from Mongolia, including the Yokozuna Hakuho and the now disgraced Asashoryu.
The public's patience with Japan's national sport was finally snapped by the revelations that 50 gangsters from the Yamaguchi-gumi, Japan's largest crime syndicate, had obtained front row seats at last year's Nagoya tournament. The plan was to be seen on national television and thus offer support to senior Yakuza members locked up in Japan's prisons.
When national broadcaster NHK threatened to pull the plug on live broadcasts the hide-bound JSA finally had to act to try and clean out the Augean stables. However NHK has made good on its threat and will not show the Nagoya tournament live for the first time in 50 years, opting for a delayed and abbreviated highlights show each day instead, after receiving 1000s of complaints from its viewers.
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Wednesday, July 07, 2010