Who knows what was going through a Japanese mayor's head when he decided to snack on a softball player's Olympic gold medal? But that's what he did (video below) – after making a crude remark to the athlete – and now, in the middle of a shame storm, he is apologizing.
"I'm really sorry that I hurt the treasure of the gold medalist," Kawamura said Thursday.
The heedless chomp occurred on August 4, according to The Washington Post, when pitcher Miu Goto visited mayor Takashi Kawamura at Nagoya's city hall. After he eyed the medal like a salivating pup, Goto allowed the mayor to try it on. Not only did he place the medal around his neck, he also pulled down his mask and placed the gold disc squarely in his mouth. She nervously laughed. He thought good times were had by all. And then all hell broke loose for the mayor.
From The Washington Post:
The scene broadcast on television prompted thousands of complaints to city hall. Some Olympians said they treat their medals as treasures and that it was outrageous for Kawamura to bite one.
"I would cry if that happened to me," Naohisa Takato, who won gold for Japan in judo, said in a tweet. "I handle my own gold medal so gently not to scratch it."
Yuki Ota, a silver-medal winning fencer, said the mayor's action was disrespectful to athletes and was a bad idea for COVID-19 measures.
Goto reportedly considered keeping the original but eventually accepted the IOC offer of a replacement.
It didn't help that the mayor also made inappropriate remarks moments before the incident.
From Kyodo News:
"Are you prohibited from having romantic relationships?" he was heard saying to Goto.
After first denying his remarks constituted sexual harassment, Kawamura admitted they had been inappropriate, while spinning them as an honest error in judgement.
"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." …
Kawamura was immediately pilloried on social media, where some Olympians questioned the need for a courtesy call and others posted the hashtag #respectathletes.
Kawamura later apologized for ignoring COVID-19 protocols and for "acting on impulse" and "making the symbol of years and years of hard work dirty."
City officials said Wednesday Kawamura will no longer be attending the Tokyo Paralympics torch event scheduled for Sunday.