Japanese mayor faces backlash for biting on Olympic athlete’s gold medal

‘I forgot my position and acted in an extremely inappropriate way,’ official says

Louise Hall
Thursday 05 August 2021 21:39 BST
Tom Daley shows off finished Olympics cardigan

The mayor of Japanese city Nagoya has faced backlash after biting down on the gold medal of an Olympic athlete, prompting him to issue an apology.

Takashi Kawamura pulled down his mask and went to take a pantomime bite from Miu Goto’s medal on Thursday at an event to celebrate the softball champion, Reuters reported.

Critics online said that the action was presumptuous and unhygienic amid the ongoing pandemic. Toyota, the owners of the softball team that Ms Goto plays for, also condemned the gesture.

“It is unfortunate that he was unable to feel admiration and respect for the athlete,” they said in a statement on Thursday.

They added: “And it is extremely regrettable that he was unable to give consideration to infection prevention,” they said in a statement.

“I saw the video and heard his teeth making a clicking noise,” judo champion Naohisa Takato said in a post on Twitter.

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

In a response to the criticism, Mr Kawamura issued an apology: "I forgot my position as Nagoya mayor and acted in an extremely inappropriate way. I am fully aware that I should reflect on that.”

The stunt also comes as new cases of the novel coronavirus surge in Tokyo to record levels during the Olympic Games.

While Mr Kawamura bit down on the medal, a public health warning behind him warned people to practice coronavirus health measures such as handwashing and social distancing.

The biting of gold medals has always been a familiar quirk at the Olympics and has been seen frequently this year, but is usually a gesture reserved for the winner of the medal.

The gesture has been seen so much this year that it prompted a light-hearted reminder from the Tokyo 2020 organising committee that the medals are not supposed to be eaten.

“We just want to officially confirm that the#Tokyo2020medals are not edible,” the official Tokyo 2020 Twitter account wrote last week.

They added: “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.”

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