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Odishatv Bureau

Japan: Japan's sumo association on Friday confirmed its first coronavirus case, in a new blow for the ancient sport, which has already been forced to move one tournament behind closed doors and postpone others.

One low-ranking wrestler who had a fever last week has tested positive for the virus, the association said, declining to name the man or give details of his stable.

The association said no other wrestlers or officials had symptoms and those who belong to the infected wrestler's stable will stay home or at the stable and follow advice from health officials.

The outbreak in Japan has been smaller than in many countries, with more than 5,300 cases and 88 deaths confirmed so far, but the government this week declared a state of emergency in seven regions, and the sumo association said it was adapting too.

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The association has not called off daily training but new instructions include requiring wrestlers to take their temperatures twice a day.

The "tokoyama" responsible for styling wrestlers' hair into their signature oiled topknots have been asked to avoid public transportation when coming to stables, a spokesman said.

A young wrestler at a Tokyo stable confirmed daily training was continuing as usual but said activities were limited.

"We wear masks where possible, wash hands, disinfect hands... We have been taking normal prevention measures," he told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"We don't visit other stables to practice. We have been practising in our stable only."

"We go out only for (grocery) shopping... Stress is building up in many people," he added.

News of the infected wrestler came a week after the association postponed two sumo tournaments scheduled for later this year.

The next sumo "basho" or tournament, scheduled to open on May 10 in Tokyo, has been delayed by two weeks. The July basho in Nagoya suffered the same fate.

Tokyo's basho is expected to begin on May 24 but tickets have yet to go on sale over concerns about a further postponement or cancellation.

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The spring basho, held last month in Osaka, took place without spectators, with wrestlers surrounded by just a handful of judges in the empty arena.

But it was broadcast live on national TV, where viewers could hear sounds normally drowned out by the crowd, including wrestlers slapping their bellies and scraping their feet on the clay ring.

Some rituals were amended, including the traditional ladle of water that a winning wrestler offers to the next in the ring.

On the other hand, the chief executive of the Tokyo Games said Friday he can't guarantee the postponed Olympics will be staged next year even with a 16-month delay.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued an emergency declaration this week to battle the virus, putting the country under restrictions after it seemed it had avoided the spread.

I don't think anyone would be able to say if it is going to be possible to get it under control by next July or not," Tokyo organizing committee CEO Toshiro Muto said, speaking through an interpreter at a news conference conducted remotely.

We're certainly are not in a position to give you a clear answer." The Olympics were postponed last month with a new opening set for July 23, 2021, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24.

Abe has been criticized for being slow to act against the coronavirus. Opposition political leaders have suggested he downplayed the severity of the virus and have said it may have been tied to wanting to hold the Olympics this year.

We have made the decision to postpone the games by one year," Muto added.

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So this means that all we can do is work hard to prepare for the games. We sincerely hope that come next year mankind will manage to overcome the coronavirus crisis. Muto was asked if there are alternative plans to 2021.

Rather than think about alternatives plans, we should put in all of our effort, he said.

Mankind should bring together all of its technology and wisdom to work hard so they can development treatments, medicines and vaccines. Japan has reported about 5,000 cases and 100 deaths. The country has the world's oldest population, and COVID-19 can be especially serious for the elderly.

Muto was asked several times about the added costs of postponing, which has been estimated by Japanese media at between 2 billion- 6 billion. He said it was too soon to know the price tag and who would pay.

He also acknowledged that Tokyo Olympic organizers had taken out insurance.

Tokyo 2020 has taken out several insurance policies," he said.

But whether the postponement of the games qualifies as an event that is covered is not clear yet."

He was also asked about the Olympic flame, which was taken off public display this week in Fukushima prefecture. Muto had an away-from-the-microphone talk with Tokyo spokesman Masa Takaya before talking about the flame.

After the Olympic torch relay was canceled, the Olympic flame was put under the management of Tokyo 2020," Muto said.

Obviously in the future there is a possibility it might be put on display somewhere. However, for now it is under the management of Tokyo 2020 and I'm not going to make any further comment on the issue."

There are suggestions the International Olympic Committee is thinking of taking the flame on a world tour, hoping to use it as a symbol of the battle against the virus.

However, any tour would be impossible until travel restrictions are lifted.

Taking the flame away from Japan could also upset the hosts.

(With Agency Inputs)

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