Reports from Tokyo today that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the International Olympic Committee have agreed to postpone this year’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The hope is to re-schedule the games for the summer of 2021, provided the threat of COVID-19 has been controlled by then. This move marks the biggest pandemic triggered postponement or cancellation in the world of sports to date, and comes on the heels of multiple national olympic teams requesting cancelation or postponement of the games. This is a huge blow to Japan, that has spent billions of Yen preparing for the games, building stadiums and venues, and Japanese businesses across the country, who had been gearing up for the massive influx of world tourists to enjoy the games.
For the world of sumo, it’s open knowledge that Yokozuna Hakuho was seeking to crown his matchless career with a ceremonial dohyo-iri at the Tokyo games this summer, after which it was expected he would retire. With the delay of the Olympics until next year, this throws the entire time table into doubt. Hakuho boosters would rightly reply, “Well, he can just stay in the sport and continue to dominate”. But as we saw at the end of Haru, Hakuho was physically struggling, though he continued to dominate. Sumo is an intense, combat driven sport, and the damage to the human body of years of competition is cumulative. We can imagine that Hakuho’s skill has not decreased on bit, but his body may be telling him that he is nearly done. The sumo public has no insight to just what challenges he faces every day he competes.
Team Tachiai hopes the re-scheduled Olympics in 2021 take place in a period of celebration as the world emerges from the pandemic, and the public across the globe turn to international sporting competition with hope and enthusiasm.