Japan sumo tournament to be held without live audience for first time

Japanese professional wrestling competition affected by ongoing coronavirus crisis

Japan's sumo tournament to be held behind closed doors for first time. (Pixabay photo)

Japan's sumo tournament to be held behind closed doors for first time. (Pixabay photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The Spring Grand Sumo Tournament, which was set to take place in the Japanese city of Osaka March 8-22, will be held with no spectators for the first time in its history, the Japan Sumo Association (JSA) said Sunday (March 1).

According to media reports, the organizers confessed that the decision had been made to prevent the spread of the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Japan. The JSA said that it had previously ruled out the possibility of the tournament being carried out in a "regular" fashion, but the committee had difficulty deciding whether to call off the competition.

Before the JSA announced its decision, tickets to the tournament had been completely sold out, with more than 7,000 people expected to attend. JSA Chairman Hokutoumi Nobuyoshi apologized for the last-minute change but said the event will be televised on national broadcaster NHK for fans to watch, reported Liberty Times.

Sumo wrestling is not the only sport to be affected by the outbreak, as Japanese professional baseball recently adopted a similar move by deciding to hold its pre-season exhibition games inside empty stadiums. With fewer than five months until the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the Japanese government has urged the country's sporting organizations to cancel or postpone all large-scale events.