The head of Japan's sumo association has apologized after several women were told to get out of the ring when they rushed to perform first aid on an official who had collapsed.
In sumo wrestling, the ring is traditionally considered a sacred space that women are prohibited from entering.
On Wednesday when Ryozo Tatami, the 67-year-old mayor of Maizuru in northern Kyoto, collapsed during a speech, two women who were apparently had medical experience hurried into the ring to perform CPR.
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When two more women came to assist the first aid effort, all of the women were told to get out of the ring.
"Ladies, please get off the ring," a sumo referee said. "Only gentlemen go up."
Sumo chief Nobuyoshi Hakkaku said the call for the women to be removed from the ring was inappropriate and apologized late on Wednesday, while thanking the women for their actions.
In a statement, Hakkaku said the announcement was made by an official who panicked after seeing the women in the ring, but did not mention the age-old tradition.
"It was an inappropriate response in a life-threatening situation," Hakkaku said.
The mayor, who suffered an acute cerebral hemorrhage, survived and was in a stable condition on Thursday after undergoing emergency surgery, city officials said.
The male-only tradition in sumo has been a controversial topic for decades, and has seen top female politicians barred from honoring winners in the ring.
Japan's ancient sport of sumo has come under fire in recent months with a number of scandals, including the revelation that grand champion Harumafuji had assaulted a lower-ranking wrestler in a bar.
law/msh (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)