Mendoza: A sumo dream

Al Mendoza

SUMO is being injected into the Tokyo Olympics to help drum up more interest in the quadrennial Games. As if the Olympiad is in dire need of more publicity, which is not.

But, of course.

In fact, the Olympiad has now become a multi-billion-dollar entertainment ever since its phenomenal financial success in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.

Olympic officials are experiencing record ticket demand for the Tokyo event set to open on July 24, followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 25.

Stephen Wade of the Associated Press has written about plans by the Japan Sumo Association and the local Olympic organizers to stage a sumo tournament on Aug. 12 and 13, just days after the Olympiad’s conclusion.

Designed to bring more attention to the Japanese sport, the tournament will be held at the Ryoguoku Kokugikan arena, sumo’s spiritual home in east Tokyo.

Sumo features oversized males wrestling, with a contestant winning after pushing his foe out of the unfenced ring.

Incidentally, under sumo’s Shinto tradition dating back to the eighth century, women are considered unclean and are not allowed to enter the elevated ring (dohyo).

In a 2018 incident that drew worldwide criticism, a sumo referee blocked women who went up the ring to provide first aid for a mayor who collapsed while delivering a speech at a sumo event in Kyoto.

But despite a backlash accusing officials of prioritizing gender-biased tradition over someone’s life, the rules remained unchanged—with the dohyo considered sacred under Shinto beliefs.

The rikishis (sumo wrestlers), unlike other athletes, are considered living performers of a cultural tradition and are treated as role models.

Theirs is a special diet that practically fatten them like cows for butchering.

Yet, despite their frames resembling wide-bodied Boeing jets, they are unabashedly adored by many Japanese women adore and virtually offer themselves to sumo wrestlers in marriage.

It’s been my dream to watch a sumo event but despite my almost yearly trip to Tokyo since 1993, I never had the luck to see one.

Maybe this year?