Coronavirus fallout rocks sumo in Japan

The sumo world is in front of a huge test, because of the latest crisis. The coronavirus outbreak, which has claimed the life of a 28-year-old wrestler and forced the cancellation of the sport’s showpiece May tournament is growing in Japan.

“With the spread of the disease, just about everything is spoiled,” lamented sumo elder Shibatayama, the JSA’s public relations manager.

“It’s a unique situation, so the closures are hurting us the same as the rest of the sumo world,” said one sumo-chaya staff member. “One way or another, I hope the autumn tournament goes ahead in September.” The JSA’s finances are taking a big hit as well. The governing body is planning to move July’s Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament to Ryogoku Kokugikan and holding the event behind closed doors — indicating the high likelihood of losing ticket revenue for the third straight meet.”

Wrestlers have been struggling to train amid severe restrictions, as practicing outside of one’s stable was prohibited to prevent further infection.

“Ticket sales are a pillar of our revenue,” said one JSA executive. “The situation is quite severe.” According to JSA personnel, the association expects a loss of about ¥1 billion (around $9.25 million) based on profits from last year’s Spring Basho.

“Holding grand tournaments is an absolute necessity,” Shibatayama said. “Wrestlers and the association are gearing up toward the next tournament.”

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