TOKYO: Sumo began a new tournament in front of a live audience Sunday, despite a steady rise in coronavirus infections. The tournament runs through August 2 at Ryogoku Kokugikan, the primary sumo arena at the heart of the Japanese capital.
The tournament comes a week after Japanese baseball and football opened stadiums to spectators. People and fans voiced both joy and caution about watching the Japanese spectacle during the pandemic.
Despite the worrying signs of the virus’s resurgence, these actions are considered as the government’s way to keep the economy open.
Only 2,500 fans were allowed inside the 11,098-seat stadium, unlike in normal times when bouts are performed in front of sold-out crowds. Some of the regulations included:
- Spectators were asked to refrain from cheering and stick to applause to express their passion.
- Anyone with a temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius (99.5 F) or higher was denied entry.
- Spectators also had to wear masks, sanitize their hands, and keep a distance from others.
- They were also asked to refrain from touching wrestlers or approaching them for autographs.
Sumo was last held before live audiences in January when Japan began to see its first cases of coronavirus. A March tournament was held behind closed doors before sumo authorities canceled the May tournament altogether.
The current tournament was originally due to be held in the central city of Nagoya, also behind closed doors. But officials decided to switch the event to Tokyo to minimize the travel of wrestlers and officials, as well as allow a small number of fans to watch.
One wrestler has died from COVID-19 since the epidemic first hit Japan, while several other fighters and officials have tested positive.