Sumo goes live again, despite rising coronavirus infections

2020-07-21 02:37:40 GMT2020-07-21 10:37:40(Beijing Time) Sina English
People observe social distancing as wrestlers perform a ceremony ahead of a new two-week sumo tournament at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the main sumo arena in Tokyo, on Sunday.  People observe social distancing as wrestlers perform a ceremony ahead of a new two-week sumo tournament at the Ryogoku Kokugikan, the main sumo arena in Tokyo, on Sunday.

Sumo began a new tournament in front of a live audience on Sunday, despite a steady rise in coronavirus infections, with fans voicing both joy and caution about watching the Japanese spectacle during the pandemic.

The tournament runs through August 2 at Ryogoku Kokugikan, the primary sumo arena at the heart of the Japanese capital.

The tournament comes a week after Japanese baseball and football opened stadiums to spectators, as the government seeks to keep the economy open despite worrying signs of the virus’ resurgence, particularly in Tokyo.

“Well, it’s scary, isn’t it?” said fan Katsuhiko Ochiai, 59, who traveled from neighboring Chiba region to attend the first day.

“But I love sumo, so I want to watch this.”

Only 2,500 fans were allowed inside the 11,098-seat stadium, unlike in normal times when bouts are performed in front of sold-out crowds. They must refrain from cheering and stick to applause.

“It will be different,” said Kazuo Aoki, 49, also a frequent visitor. “I will cheer in my spirit.”

Anyone with a temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius or higher was denied entry. Spectators also had to wear masks, sanitize their hands and keep a distance from others.

Sumo was last held before live audiences in January, when Japan began to see its first COVID-19 cases.

The current tournament was originally due to be held in the central city of Nagoya, behind closed doors. But officials decided to switch the event to Tokyo to minimize the travel of wrestlers and officials, as well as allow a small amount of fans to watch.

Still, Tokyo’s coronavirus infections rate has been mounting in recent days. But sumo fans said the excitement of the tournament was worth the risk.

“It’s the feeling of being here, being present. You enjoy it by being a participant of this spectacle,” Ochiai said.

(Agencies)

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