In the past day, there has been a flurry of announcements and commentary around the status of the Osaka tournament, set to kick off in just about 10 days. As the Corona virus continues to multiply across several continents, an increasing body of evidence shows that the only way to slow down the spread of the disease is to limit or prevent human social interaction. While the video of the intense quarantine from China and specifically Wuhan has been shocking to western viewers, it seems that it has actually made a difference in slowing down the rate of infection. With an eye toward what China has done, Japan has started to cancel and postpone public events.
First this story from NHK, where Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe has suggested that major sport, cultural and other events should be cancelled, delayed or scaled down for about two weeks. (Video at the link) Abe said, “Now is the crucial time to contain the spread of the virus at an early date.”
Next this twitter post from Tachiai contributor Herouth, stating what many at Team Tachiai suspected, that the NSK is starting to consider curtailing public involvement in Haru, and will meet March 1st to assess the risk to the public of a sumo tournament in mid-March.
An element that will figure into consideration is that Wakayama, adjacent to Osaka, is is an area that is of concern to the Health Ministry due to the number of people currently sick with the virus.
In response to Prime Minister Abe’s recommendation, Kyodo News reports that the Nippon Professional Baseball said Wednesday it will hold all 72 of its remaining preseason games behind closed doors.
Noted sumo commentator and former rikishi, John Gunning, writing for the Japan Times has suggested that calling off Haru would be the right move for the sumo association. In his article (always worth the read) he makes a number of excellent points.
At Tachiai, we are hoping that Haru will move forward in some format, even if we see the rather odd spectacle of competition with no spectators. I personally love the atmospherics that leak into the video feed, and having had the privilege of being present for several tournaments, nothing beats the crowd at these events. But given that many other sporting events are changing format in Japan to protect the public from infection, I suspect we may see the cancelation of Haru. Sumo fans around the globe now wait on the NSK’s special board meeting this Sunday, that will decide the fate of the Haru basho.
UPDATE – As Herouth posted just a few minutes ago to twitter…
Comments getting too heated, and too personal. I have tuned them off – Bruce