Olympics officials have replaced the gold medal won by softball team member Miu Goto at the 2020 Tokyo Games after Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura bit the first one at an event last week.
The controversial bite: Goto, 20, paid a courtesy visit to Nagoya’s city hall on Aug. 4 to report the victory of Japan’s softball team against Team USA 2-0, according to Kyodo News.
- During the visit, Kawamura, 72, gestured for Goto to place the medal around his neck. He was also accused of sexually harassing the athlete by asking her, “Are you prohibited from having romantic relationships?”
- Kawamura then removed his mask and proceeded to mimic the medal-biting athletes do when winning at the Olympics.
- His action during Goto’s visit ignited outrage online, with some athletes calling him out. “I would cry if that happened to me,” Japanese gold medalist in judo Naohisa Takato tweeted, the Associated Press reported. “I handle my own gold medal so gently not to scratch it.”
- Others accused the mayor of ignoring COVID-19 safety measures and having a lack of respect.
- “Apart from showing a lack of respect for athletes, he bit it even though [athletes] are putting on medals themselves or on their team-mates during medal ceremonies as part of infection prevention measures,” Japanese silver medalist fencer Yuki Ota wrote on Twitter, BBC reported. “Sorry, I can’t understand it.”
- City authorities reportedly received over 7,000 complaints and the words “germ medal” trended over Japanese social media.
The aftermath: While he denied the comment he made was sexual harassment, Kawamura admitted it was inappropriate and said it was an honest error in judgment.
- “I deeply regret making her uncomfortable with remarks that went too far,” he said. “When I ask a young person if they have a boyfriend or girlfriend, it allows them to relax and speak more. As a mayor it’s important to put people one is talking to at ease.”
- He also expressed his desire to pay for the replacement after biting Goto’s medal.
- “I hope the arrangements are made in line with Ms. Goto’s wishes, or as close as possible,” the mayor said.
- Besides the inappropriate comment and medal-biting, Kawamura also apologized for ignoring COVID-19 protocols when he removed his mask at the event, saying he was “acting on impulse” and “making the symbol of years and years of hard work dirty.”
- The International Olympic Committee, Japanese Olympics Committee and Tokyo Olympic organizers are coordinating to make the medal replacement possible.
Featured Image via Nippon TV News 24 Japan