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October 9
1991: Sumos size up Royal Albert Hall
[ 2006-10-09 08:00 ]

October 9
Organisers want an authentic tournament
1991: Sumos size up Royal Albert Hall

England have

The firstSumowrestling tournament ever to be staged outside Japan in the sport's 1500 year history has begun.

The event is taking place in the UK in London's world famous Royal Albert Hall, as part of the ongoing Japan Festival.

Contestants in the tournament are from Japan'selitesumo league, Makunouchi.

Japan's Sumo Kyokai (Association) says the tournament is an opportunity to present the sport to a wider foreign audience.  

Sumo in Japan is comprised of around 800 full-time wrestlers divided into seven divisions. A tournament is called a Basho and lasts for 15 days.

The UK version has been shortened to a five-day contest. Each wrestler will fight once a day leading to the likelihood of a final day play-off.

But despite the shortened version, organisers promise the 5 million tournament will be as authentic and true to the Sumo spirit as possible.

Clay for the sacred dohyo (wrestling ring) has been specially selected from a quarry near Heathrow, while a huge drum and the ceremonial canopy, the yokata, have been shipped in from Japan.

The top 40 rikishi (wrestlers) are comprised of younger players and old masters, including the two yokozuma (grand champions) - Asahifuji and Hokutuomi.

But all eyes are on the heaviest sumo wrestler ever, and also a foreigner, Hawaiian Konishiki, who weighs 37.5 stone (238.25 kg).

Asked about his thoughts on England since arriving, Konishiki, nicknamed the Dump Truck, joked about the food:

"Usually in Japan we don't have breakfast...Foreign food has been good but we get one meal too much I guess."

Given their extreme weight and proportions, the wrestlers' accommodation at the Royal Garden Hotel has undergone certain modifications.

The management has weight-tested the lavatories, reinforced the beds and chairs and fitted special detachable showers - the original showers have too small a spray to cover the sportsmen's bodies.  

October 9
Latvians want their heritage back

1988: Latvia cries freedom from Moscow

Artificially 1969: Thousands of Latvians in the capital of Riga have begun a mass movement to press Moscow for greater independence from the Soviet Union.

In its inaugural congress, the Latvijas Tautas Fronte (LTF - Latvian Popular Front) has been making unprecedented demands on the Soviet leadership such as the right to self-determination.

The LTF is an expression of Latvia's desire to make its own decisions within the new climate of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika (restructuring).

Crowds attending a huge rally, church services and two day conference were given extensive local media coverage.

The first Mass was celebrated in Riga's Lutheran Domkirke Cathedral in 30 years and was broadcast on local television and radio.

The grass roots organisation has adopted a charter calling for economic, ecological and cultural self-determination for the Soviet Baltic republic.

Latvia's Baltic neighbours, Estonia and Lithuania have also recently established movements aimed at furthering their goals of self-determination in a spirit of renewed national consciousness.

All three states' parliaments recently elected to reinstate their former national flags, banned under Stalin, and they are set on giving their languages equal status to Russian.

The newly appointed head of the Latvian Communist Party, Jan Vagris istentativeabout radical reform but has signalled greater autonomy is possible.

Demands for curbs on immigration are also being considered. The influx of Russians moving to Latvia has made Latvians almost an ethnic minority.

Urys Voyes, a university professor and leading member of the LTF is confident real change can be achieved.

"As Mr Gorbachev has gained the upper hand, so we may hope - which we couldn't before."

But demands have fallen short of nationalist calls for an end to political and policy dependency on Moscow.

The statutes of the forum say it is not a political party but only a "social and political organisation".

And despite no mention that the Latvian Communist Party retains a leading role in the organisation, President Gorbachev did not seem too concerned.

"The Front says it recognises the Soviet constitution. Anyway, it's not aesthetic nowadays to mention the party's leading role. We are against any monopoly of power."

Mr Gorbachev's aim is to enable the Baltic States to pursue their nationalist causes without demanding secession from the Soviet Union.


Sumo: a Japanese form of wrestling; you lose if you are forced out of a small ring or if any part of your body (other than your feet) touches the ground(相扑)

elite :selected as the best(精华)

tentative: under terms not final or fully worked out or agreed upon(尝试的;试探的)

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