Sumo won't be broadcast amidst gambling scandal

Right to left: Champion, or ozeki, Kaio tries to push Bulgarian ozeki Kotooshu out of the ring to win his 1,000th career bout on the final day of the 15-day Summer Grand Sumo Tournament in Tokyo.

TEXT OF STORY

Steve Chiotakis: In Japan, a sumo wrestling tournament due to start this Sunday won't be broadcast on Japanese television. That's because of a scandal over illegal gambling by wrestlers. It's the first time a tournament will not be televised live for more than half a century. From Tokyo, the BBC's Roland Buerk reports for Marketplace.


Roland Buerk: Sumo has its origins in the Shinto religion, and wrestlers are supposed to display moral strength as well as raw power in the ring.

But Japanese has been scandalized by an illegal gambling racket, some of it organized by gangster middlemen. Now, Japan's public broadcaster has cancelled its live coverage of the Nagoya tournament after receiving thousands of calls and e-mails from angry sumo fans.

NHK's President Shigeo Fukuchi said the sport was facing a once-in-a-century crisis:

Shigeo Fukuchi (voice of interpreter): The baseball gambling scandal affects the core of sumo, and a link with an anti-social group such as Japanese crime syndicates has been pointed out. We find the issue extremely serious and deplorable.

The top-ranked Japanese wrestler Kotomitsuki was from the sport at the weekend after admitting placing bets on baseball, and more than a dozen others have been suspended.

Sumo had already been damaged when crime bosses had been given front-row seats to a tournament last year. They'd wanted to be visible in television coverage to cheer up fellow gangsters watching in their prison cells.

In Tokyo, I'm the BBC's Roland Buerk for Marketplace.

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