There will be no spectators at Haru Basho 2020, but NHK will be broadcasting the event as usual.
With the continued spread of the new Corona virus in Japan, many large scale sporting events have been cancelled or rescheduled at the request of the Japan Sports Agency and Prime Minister Abe. Even the 2020 Olympics are in question given the severity of the situation.
Sumo fans and (not to mention) wrestlers have anxiously waited for word on whether the tournament would be scaled down, closed to the public, or cancelled altogether. After about 2 and a half hours of discussion at an extraordinary general meeting of the Japan Sumo Association, with Professor Emeritus Kaku Mitsuo of Tohoku Medical and Pharmaceutical University in attendance, the difficult decision was made.
“It is a great inconvenience to many who were looking forward to this tournament,” said Chairman Hakkaku after the meeting, “but in concurrence with the government’s request, and taking public health into consideration, we have made this judgement. We humbly request your understanding and cooperation.”
This will be the first basho post-WWII without spectators at the venue.
“The NHK broadcast will be aired as usual so that fans can enjoy sumo at home. And even though there will be no audience, we promise a great display of spirit from the wrestlers.”-Chairman Hakkaku
When asked what the most significant reason for this decision was, “There was a lot of discussion at the meeting, and even after hearing the professor’s opinion, (the most important reason was that) we do not want to cause trouble for our patrons.” said Hakkaku.
With several wrestlers commenting on the bleak outlook of a tournament without the cheering fans, Hakkaku voiced his understanding, “I’m sure it will be extremely hard for the wrestlers to maintain motivation without the encouragement of the fans. This is probably the first time they will have to wrestle with that kind of tension in the air. I don’t doubt that it will be difficult to lift their spirits.”
Nevertheless the show will go on, beginning Sunday, March 8th.