A Japanese mayor is under fire for biting the Olympic gold medal of a softball player who was visiting him after competing in the 2020 Tokyo games.
Mayor Takashi Kawamura of Nagoya, Japan was praising pitcher Miu Goto for her Olympic victory during a visit Aug. 4, when he pulled down his mask and bit into her medal, according to The Associated Press. He reportedly did not ask Goto for her permission to bite the medal.
The move was widely criticized for being disrespectful and unhygienic as Covid-19 cases are surging in Japan.
“I’m really sorry that I hurt the treasure of the gold medalist,” Kawamura said Thursday according to The Associated Press.
Kawamura claims he did not damage the medal, though he offered to pay for the cost of a new one, The Associated Press reported.
We just want to officially confirm that the #Tokyo2020 medals are not edible!
Our 🥇🥈🥉 medals are made from material recycled from electronic devices donated by the Japanese public.
So, you don’t have to bite them… but we know you still will 😛 #UnitedByEmotion
— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) July 25, 2021
Despite the fact biting medals has become a common practice in the Olympic community, an official from Nagoya City Hall told CNN that they received have more than 8,000 complaints about Kawamura’s actions. Some people are even calling for the mayor to resign, according to CNN.
The event also erupted on social media, with many people in Japan blaming Kawamura for turning the gold medal into a “germ” medal, according to Reuters.
“I would cry if that happened to me,” Naohisa Takato, a fellow gold medalist, wrote in a translated Tweet. “I handle my own gold medal so gently not to scratch it.”
Takato took home gold for Japan in judo at the Tokyo games.
— 高藤直寿TAKATO NAOHISA (@naohisatakato) August 4, 2021
Yuki Ota, Silver-medalist in fencing also chimed in.
“Apart from showing a lack of respect for athletes, he bit it even though [athletes] are putting on medals themselves or on their teammates during medal ceremonies as part of infection prevention measures, but what is biting? Sorry, I can’t understand it,” he tweeted.
— 太田雄貴 YUKI OTA (@yuking1125) August 4, 2021
Even Toyota, the owner of the Japanese softball team which Goto plays for and a major player in the Japanese economy, has spoken out on the incident.
“It is unfortunate that he was unable to feel admiration and respect for the athlete,” Toyota said in a statement on Thursday about Kawamura, per Reuters. “And it is extremely regrettable that he was unable to give consideration to infection prevention.”
Toyota’s comment led to Kawamura’s apology.
“I forgot my position as Nagoya mayor and acted in an extremely inappropriate way,” he said in a televised apology according to Reuters. “I am fully aware that I should reflect on that.”
He added that he sent Goto and the Japan Softball Association a written apology, according to CNN.
Goto was reportedly going to keep her original medal, but accepted an offer by the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo 2020 organizers to replace the gold and bear the cost of the exchange, Reuters reported. (RELATED: GORDON: Olympic Medal Tables Show Deep Anti-US Bias)
“With support from the International Olympic Committee and in line with her own intention, Ms. Goto’s medal is now set to be exchanged for a new one,” Tokyo 2020 organizers said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The Japanese women’s softball team, which Goto played for, beat the United States 2-0 to take Olympic gold in the final on July 27.