Japan Public TV Drops Sumo After Scandal The broadcaster, NHK, says a betting scandal has generated such viewer disgust that the sport is facing its worst crisis in a century, and live programs of an upcoming sumo tournament will not be aired. Doreen Simmons, who has been commentating on sumo for the past 17 years, talks with Renee Montagne about the scandal.
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Japan Public TV Drops Sumo After Scandal

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Japan Public TV Drops Sumo After Scandal

Japan Public TV Drops Sumo After Scandal

Japan Public TV Drops Sumo After Scandal

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The broadcaster, NHK, says a betting scandal has generated such viewer disgust that the sport is facing its worst crisis in a century, and live programs of an upcoming sumo tournament will not be aired. Doreen Simmons, who has been commentating on sumo for the past 17 years, talks with Renee Montagne about the scandal.

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

Thanks for joining us.

MONTAGNE: Nice to be talking to you, Renee.

MONTAGNE: OK. So what we have here is wrestlers, gangsters making bets. Give us the details, please.

MONTAGNE: Well, I mean, the real big problem is the involvement of the yakuza, the Japanese organized crime syndicate. The first indication that they were involved big time was when a pulp magazine published a piece about yakuza getting their hands on some of the best tickets in the house this time last year in Nagoya, third row from the ring.

MONTAGNE: one a stable master, and the other a rank-and-file coach.

MONTAGNE: Right. And so then that's led up to this current scandal, which is exactly what? What was the betting?

MONTAGNE: And when they were either winning or losing big time, then the middlemen started saying, well, you know, you've been betting against the yakuza, and they don't take very kindly to this sort of thing. You'd better pay us hush money to keep it quiet. That's where the trouble began.

MONTAGNE: What was the public reaction to all of this?

MONTAGNE: Well, the public reaction was pretty strong. The tournament is going on, but nearly all the big sponsors have just pulled out. So there's less prize money to go for. And of course, the refusal to televise the live broadcast and just put a digest on as soon as it's over, that is hurting the people who would normally watch anyway.

MONTAGNE: So all in all, has this dealt a fatal blow to the sport?

MONTAGNE: But sumo has been through bad periods before, and it's always come through. But this time, we have to hope that it will come through in a somewhat different form. And it's a great pity, because there's still an awful lot of good in sumo. Lots of people admire them and look up to them, with their old-fashioned hairstyle and their traditional clothes. They do have a special position in Japanese society and increasingly, among foreign fans as well.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

MONTAGNE: My pleasure.

MONTAGNE: Doreen Simmons, speaking to us from Tokyo. She's a longtime commentator on sumo wrestling for Japanese Public Broadcasting.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: This is NPR News.

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