SMH: Tokyo Olympic gold medal replaced after first got bitten

Mayor Takashi Kawamura chomps on Miu Goto's gold
Mayor Takashi Kawamura chomped on Miu Goto’s medal at an event last week

An Olympic gold medallist will be given a new medal after the mayor of her hometown chomped on the first.

Takashi Kawamura, mayor of Japanese city Nagoya, sparked fury online when he lowered his mask and bit on softball athlete Miu Goto’s medal at an event.

He was accused of ignoring Covid-19 restrictions and “lacking respect”.

Now, Olympic officials say they will swap Ms Goto’s medal for an untarnished one, after the mayor apologised and said he would pay for a replacement.

The mayor faced a backlash after putting the medal between his teeth at a ceremony last week to celebrate Japan’s victory over the USA in the women’s softball final.

Social media users said the act was unhygienic and impolite towards the athlete.

“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. Sorry, I can’t understand it,” Japanese silver medal-winning fencer Yuki Ota wrote on Twitter.

“Germ medal” was soon trending on social media in Japan. Even Toyota, the owners of the team Ms Goto plays for, condemned the gesture, calling it “inappropriate” and “extremely regrettable”.

The 72-year-old mayor apologised later for his actions, which reportedly prompted over 7,000 complaints to city authorities. “I forgot my position as Nagoya mayor and acted in an extremely inappropriate way,” he said, adding that he wanted to pay for a replacement medal.

A statement from Tokyo 2020 organisers on Thursday said the replacement had been agreed between the International Olympic Committee and Ms Goto. The IOC would cover the costs, it said.

Biting medals is a common quirk at the Games, but is usually reserved for winners.

The Tokyo 2020 organisers appeared to make light of the incident last week when they tweeted: “We just want to officially confirm that the #Tokyo2020medals are not edible!”

Neither Mr Kawamura or Ms Goto had any immediate comment.

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