Maybe he was just teething.

Even watching the 2020 Olympics infrequently like our super-fan Seiji has been, it’s easy to spot a gold medal winner sticking their prize in their mouths on the podium. It’s an odd tradition that is said to stem from a test to see if it is really gold, but nowadays is attributed to photographers egging athletes on to do it in order to get a nice shot.

▼ Gold medals are really just recycled gold-plated silver

In fact, we’re probably seeing it more often this time because there are no roaring crowds to drown out these requests from the press, and regardless of its origins, it remains a custom of elite athletes and them alone.

▼ Of course, a lot of athletes aren’t about to scuff up a prize as rare as that, so they just sort of pretend to bite it

That’s why when Mayor Takashi Kawamura of Nagoya City, Aichi Prefecture decided to bite down on a gold medal, it sparked a backlash across the country.

The incident occurred on the morning of 4 August when Miu Goto was visiting the City Hall of her hometown in celebration of winning the gold in women’s softball. After speaking with the mayor and other officials, Kawamura and the 20-year-old star pitcher held a press conference together.

At one point the mayor asked if he could see the medal and Goto agreed, placing it around his neck like one might at a ceremony before the pandemic hit. Soon after, Mayor Kawamura pulled down his mask and took a big chomp of the medal, possibly playing into the whole ceremony pantomime.

▼ News report on the bite heard round the country

Public outrage was fast and furious with almost unanimous condemnation of the way Mayor Kawamura overstepped his bounds, especially in the current health crisis.

“Gross! Please disinfect that thing as soon as possible.”
“Who bites other people’s things?”
“She worked so hard to get that…”
“I hope she can get that medal exchanged, and the people of Nagoya can get their mayor exchanged.”
“Goto must have the patience of Gandhi to not just smack the guy.”
“That could easily scratch the medal. Even athletes usually just pretend to bite it.”
“That is an embarrassment of a mayor.”
“Unbelievable! Can you imagine how she must have felt?”

To shed some light on that last question, Mizuki Fujii, who won a silver in badminton in the 2012 London Games, said that it happened to her at the time and while she understood the person was just trying to be funny, the act shocked her and nearly drove her to tears.

Her feelings were shared with other athletes who spoke out on social media under the hashtag #選手にリスペクトを (“Respect Athletes”).

“Wha? I watched the video and I heard a ‘clink’ of his teeth hitting the medal. I treat my gold medal so delicately I can’t imagine how big Goto’s heart is that she wouldn’t get angry. I would have cried.”
Naohisa Takato (Judo, Tokyo 2020)

“I don’t know the situation or the relationship between those two, but besides the disrespect to the athlete, why would you bite someone else’s property in the middle of a pandemic? Even at the ceremony we have to put the medals on ourselves for infection control. Sorry, I just don’t get what he was doing.”
Yuki Ohta (Fencing, London 2012, Beijing 2008)

“If he bit [my medal]…well, I better not say.”
Aaron Wolf (Judo, Tokyo 2020)

It even has some people wondering if criminal charges for destruction of property could be filed. Lawyer Yoshitaka Miura tweeted that criminal destruction of property charges could stick if it was proven that the medal was rendered useless as a result, but a civil matter would be more likely. He also said that in such a situation, Goto would have been within her legal rights to punch Kawamura the moment he bit the medal, adding: “In conclusion, she should have punched him.”

So, it certainly looks like a public apology is on the way from Mayor Kawamura’s office, though judging by the reaction it’s going to be a hard sell. On the day of the incident he briefly said sorry and that he got carried away, but that minute apology fell on deaf ears. It even prompted Toyota Motor Corp. which is headquartered in neighboring Toyota City to issue a statement denouncing his actions – and everyone knows that when Toyota takes the time to say you screwed up, you really screwed up.

It reminds me of what my father used to say: “You can bite your things and you can bite your friends, but never bite your friend’s things.” I never really knew what that meant until now.

Source: CBC News, Daily Sports, Hachima Kiko, Twitter/@lawkus, Twitter/#選手にリスペクト
Photos ©SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!