Olympic Games organisers have been forced to replace a Japanese star's gold medal after a bizarre incident that drew widespread criticism.
Nagoya mayor Takashi Kawamura sparked outrage when he inexplicably chomped on softball star Miu Goto's gold medal during an event to commemorate the team's triumph in Tokyo.
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Biting down on medals or trophies is an act commonly seen at the Olympics or in tennis but with the Games proceeding in 2021 amid a continuing global coronavirus pandemic, Kawamura's act was quickly rebuked.
The mayor was forced to make a public apology after motor company Toyota, which sponsors Goto's domestic team Red Terriers, came out with a statement condemning his actions.
Trending posts on Twitter said Kawamura had turned Goto's gold medal into a germ medal, which in Japanese is pronounced the same.
"I forgot my position as Nagoya mayor and acted in an extremely inappropriate way," Kawamura said in a televised apology after Toyota released its statement.
"I am fully aware that I should reflect on that."
Following calls for the medal to be replaced, Games organisers have stepped up to ensure Goto is given new gold medal, minus the teeth marks.
“With support from the International Olympic Committee and in line with her own intention, Ms Goto’s medal is now set to be exchanged for a new one,” organisers said in a statement.
Mayor's bizarre act sparks uproar
Japanese fencer Yuki Ota - who claimed silver at the Games - was just one of many critics to speak out against the mayor.
“Apart from showing a lack of respect for athletes, he bit it even though (athletes) are putting on medals themselves or on their teammates during medal ceremonies as part of infection prevention measures,” Ota wrote on Twitter.
“Sorry, I can’t understand it.”
Making matters worse for the Nagoya mayor was the fact he performed the act in front of a press backdrop urging citizens to continue taking precautions to avoid contracting Covid-19, such as washing hands and maintaining social distancing.
Toyota, which has a heavy manufacturing and economic presence in Nagoya, was scathing of Kawamura's carelessness.
"It is unfortunate that he was unable to feel admiration and respect for the athlete," Toyota said in a statement on Thursday about Kawamura.
"And it is extremely regrettable that he was unable to give consideration to infection prevention."
Nagoya city authorities reportedly receiving more than 7000 complaints about the mayor's inexplicable gaffe, which he later apologised for.
“I forgot my position as Nagoya mayor and acted in an extremely inappropriate way," he said.
“I am fully aware that I should reflect on that.”
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