Friday, February 9, 2007

Sumo has bigger problems than bribery to worry about

Accusations of bribery are as old as the ancient sport of sumo itself, though in the past proponents were much more open about bouts being fixed, according to Shukan Asahi (2/16).

In the Taisho Era (1912-1925), there used to be an inspector who would accuse grapplers of fixing matches and make them re-fight seriously on the spot.

But the claims by Shukan Gendai that Yokozuna Asashoryu paid 11 of his 15 opponents to lose in the Kyushu Grand Sumo Tournament last year rocked the sumo world. Asashoryu and the other wrestlers questioned over the claims have all denied any wrongdoing. Nonetheless, the struggling sport copped another blow it didn't really need.

"Before the Japan Sumo Association made a decision that there has not been any bout-fixing, it should be posting inspectors at the shitakubeya preparation room and getting them to keep an eye out on any wrestler acting suspiciously. They already knew what the result of the probe would be before they even started carrying it out this time," a veteran JSA member tells Shukan Asahi. "Unless they solve this, sumo runs the risk of losing even more of its popularity."

Sumo journalist Shigeru Nakazawa says there are problems other than the fixing allegations.

"Regardless of whether there was any fixing going on or not, what can't be denied is that a yokozuna who barely practices still manages to win tournaments while barely raising a sweat. The four ozeki who are supposed to beat the yokozuna never looked like doing so," Nakazawa says. "Sumo is trying to give across this message that everybody is always practicing really hard, but when you look at the results that are coming up, it shows you that nothing much is going on at all."

People in Tokyo may not have given up on sumo yet, but the next tournament is in March in Osaka, a city known for its citizens' parsimoniousness.

"There are some stalls complaining that customers are already demanding their money back. But there won't be any payments coming out of a place that's worth nothing," Nakazawa tells Shukan Asahi. "Osakans are a lot more outspoken than people from Tokyo, who'll put up with stuff it is makes them look good. Osakans won't put up with wrestlers not giving it their all." (By Ryann Connell)

February 6, 2007 ?

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