NHK chairman Matsumoto Masayuki (67) announced yesterday that the national broadcaster will resume live coverage of major sumo events, starting with the upcoming Nagoya basho (grand sumo tournament) from July 10. The sport has been in a serious crisis this year as it reeled from revelations of bout fixing. There have been more than two dozens dismissals and force retirements and even the cancellation of the spring basho in March, the first in modern history. A low profile version of the summer basho was held in May in Tokyo, and described as a “Technical Examination Tournament.” Spectators were not charged for admission and no cash prizes were given to wrestlers. The fate of the Nagoya basho was in doubt until yesterday, when the Japan Sumo Association announced that it would go ahead.
Explaining NHK’s position, Matsumoto said that the JSA has taken suitable steps to remedy problems in the sport. He also added what has now become a standard rallying call, saying that people across the country, including those affected by the March 11 disaster, have been calling for TV coverage to resume. Though the sport’s image has been tainted for some time, its current hero is on a path to create history. Mongolian yokozuna (grand champion) Hakuho (26) won the May basho with a 13-2 record, tying former yokozuna Asashoryu’s all-time record of seven consecutive titles. In Nagoya, he will be aiming to overtake Asashoryu and improve his own career total of 19 titles.