PSA: not even an Olympic win is a free pass to forego COVID-19 protocols.
A Japanese Olympic gold medalist is set to get a free replacement of her gold medal from the International Olympic Committee after her city mayor sunk his tooth onto her fresh prize, seemingly forgetting that COVID-19 protocols regarding sanitation are still in place.
In front of the press during a celebratory event last August 4, Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura was seen removing his face mask to wear, and then later chomp down on Japanese pitcher Miu Goto’s gold medal, per Kyodo News.
Goto’s team won the medal after a competitive softball match to beat US, 2-0. The Japanese team last won gold during the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.
Though victorious athletes biting into their medals is a tried Olympic tradition and a familiar sight in photos, Kawamura’s antics seemed to have sent the wrong message to social media viewers. Some saw it as unhygienic, considering the country’s surge in coronavirus cases, while some deemed it disrespectful to Goto’s athletic accomplishment.
According to the local news outlet Mainichi Shimbun, the Nagoya City Hall has received over 8,000 complaints. Toyota Motor Corporation, the Japanese car company for which Goto’s team plays, also called his actions “inappropriate” and “extremely regrettable.”
Other Japanese athletes likewise denounced the mayor’s antics. In a tweet reposting the news, Yuki Ota, a silver medalist in fencing, said that the mayor neither has “respect to the athlete” nor to “infection control.”Naohisa Takato, the first Japanese athlete to win gold in the Olympics for judo, shared the same sentiment in her own tweet: “Ms. Goto, who didn’t get angry, has a huge heart. I would have definitely cried.”
These prompted the mayor to apologize for “damaging the gold medalist’s treasure,” “acting on impulse” and “making the symbol of years and years of hard work dirty.” Kawamura also sat out the Tokyo Paralympics torch event where he was originally scheduled to attend.
Meanwhile, Reuters reported that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has pledged to replace the medal with a new one.
In an unrelated tweet, the Tokyo Olympics organizers have once reminded triumphant athletes that their medals, which are made from recycled electronic devices, are definitely “not edible.”