Japan’s NHK has decided to cancel live television broadcasts of this month’s grand sumo tournament in the latest fallout from a damaging gambling scandal.
Yesterday’s decision comes after champion wrestler Kotomitsuki was booted out of Japan’s ancient sport after a probe into an illegal baseball betting racket with alleged ties to local crime syndicates.
“Airing public broadcasts carries a heavily responsibility,” NHK president Shigeo Fukuchi told reporters after opting to cut live transmissions for the first time. “As Japan’s national sport, we want it to be clean and loved by the public.”
NHK started live broadcasts of sumo on radio in 1928 and on television from 1953.
Japan’s public broadcaster has received well over 1,000 complaints over the gambling furore, with some demanding this month’s Nagoya tournament not be televised.
Sponsors have also withdrawn from the event, one of six annual major tournaments which generate an estimated ¥8.5 billion in revenues.
The 34-year-old Kotomitsuki became the first ozeki — sumo’s second-highest rank after yokozuna — to suffer the humiliation of being fired.
His sacking following the arrest of a former wrestler on suspicion of extorting ¥3.5 million from Kotomitsuki, who alleged it was “hush money.”
Earlier yesterday, the government pressed sumo’s under-fire authorities to sever all links to organized crime groups.
“I’m asking them to hold discussions intended to eradicate the roots of the connections,” Japanese Education and Sports Minister Tatsuo Kawabata was quoted as saying by Kyodo news.
More than 60 wrestlers have confessed to gambling in the latest scandal to rock the sport.
Japanese couple Rikiya and Ayumi Kataoka had their honeymoon wrecked by the COVID-19 pandemic, but their resourcefulness in enforced exile in Cape Verde has won them appointments as ambassadors for its Olympic team. The Kataokas had completed a third of their round-the-world trip when a suspension in long-haul flights stranded them for five months in the archipelago of 10 tiny islands off the coast of West Africa. Unable to resume their journey to Europe and then home to Japan, and unwilling to head to the African mainland, where virus cases are spiking, they had to trade their skills with domestic businesses to
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