Publication Date: March 05, 2020
Binding: Kobo eBook
Keirin, now an Olympic sport, was invented in post-war Japan to raise tax on betting. Now, over $12 billion a year is bet on it, and its stars earn millions.
A pacemaker leads eight riders up to speeds of 70kph on huge concrete velodromes, then they fight to cross the line first (keirin translates as "war on wheels"), with riders pushing, shoving and crashing.
To prevent bet-rigging, riders live in blacked-out dorms, with no access to technology. Their lives are ruled by ritual and fierce competition, from their rookie days at the Mt. Fuji training camp to elite competitions that are the Japanese equivalent of the Grand National,
Foreign riders sometimes compete, but rarely prosper in this intense environment, and the Olympic version - which has made stars of Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny and Victoria Pendleton - is a mere distraction.
Justin McCurry, the Guardian's Tokyo correspondent, explores a blue collar Japan we rarely see and a uniquely fascinating sporting culture.