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Tug-of-War rope splits, injures participant

Date Posted: 2011-08-04

A substitute tug-of-war rope made of rice straw wasn’t strong enough to maintain Yonabaru’s 400-year tradition Sunday, breaking only two minutes into the contest and injuring a woman participating in the tug-of-war.

The Yonabaru Tug-of-War is one of Okinawa’s three largest, but lasted only a few dozen seconds after people began pulling on the rope. The rope split in two, the first time it’s happened in 30 years.

Yonabaru Fest organizing committee says the two parts of the rope were tied by Kanachi-pole, and only seconds into the first round about 80 meters of rope dropped to the ground and broke near the east side base of the Kanachi-ring. The event was taking place at Udun-yama Youth Park in Yonabaru Town Sunday when the rope gave way. Officials say many of the 150,000 festival participants were pulling on the rope when it broke, sliding to the side in a single moment.

The straw being used as material for this year’s rope was insufficient, officials say, noting that the original materials for the rope were damaged by salt brought ashore during a typhoon in May. Instead, rice straw was substituted and the rope sections woven together. “I think the reason the rope broke is that the rice straws were too short,” says Tsugunori Toma, chairman of the Yonabaru Fest operating committee. He says the total length of the rope was 10 meters shorter than that made in a normal year, and was about one ton lighter than the normal five tons.

A 66-year-old woman participating in the tug-of-war lost her balance and fell when the rope suddenly split, breaking her left ankle. Organizers say no other injuries were reported. The west side was declared the winner of the tug-of-war, as the rope broke at the east side. The second round of the tug-of-war was canceled.

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