Japanese Mayor Under Fire for Biting Olympian’s Gold Medal

A Japanese mayor publicly apologized Thursday for abruptly biting off a local athlete’s gold medal despite Covid-19 fears.

Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura sparked outrage among the virus-aware public by removing his mask and taking the softball pitcher Miu Goto’s medal to his mouth.

Cameras captured Kawamura’s stunt as he stood in front of a sign advising people to wash their hands frequently and practice social distancing to prevent the virus from spreading.

It happened on Wednesday when the city-born 20-year-old softball pitcher visited the municipal government after beating the United States in the Olympics.

Goto put the medal around Kawamura’s neck. Then the 72-year-old man grabbed it, said it was heavy” and bit it without asking her permission.

Images of the mayor’s medal-biting quickly went viral on social media, sparking a barrage of criticism from followers, Olympic fans, and major athletes.

Naohisa Takato, who won the gold medal in the 60-kilogram judo competition in Tokyo, tweeted: “I saw the video and heard his teeth from him making a clicking noise.”

“I handle my medal very carefully so that it won’t get scratched. The fact that Goto maintained her composition and didn’t get angry was incredible. I would have cried,” Takato added.

Silver medal-winning Olympic fencer Yuki Ota also criticized Kawamura’s action, saying it showed a lack of respect for athletes.

Toyota Motor Corp, the company that owns the Red Terriers softball team Goto plays for and is a major sponsor for the Tokyo Olympics, also condemned Kawamura’s bite.

In a statement Thursday, the car company said it was unfortunate that the mayor was unable to feel admiration and respect for the athlete nor consider infection prevention.

Kawamura apologized after the Nagoya city office received more than 4,000 complaints about the incident.

He said he had acted on impulse, making the symbol of years and years of hard work “dirty.”

“I apologize from the bottom of my heart,” the mayor added.

“I forgot my position as Nagoya mayor and acted in an extremely inappropriate way. I am fully aware that I should reflect on that,” Kawamura said in a televised apology.