Tokyo Olympics organizers said Thursday that they would be replacing a Japanese softball player’s gold medal after the mayor of her hometown received widespread backlash for biting into it at a ceremony celebrating the team's victory.
The organizers explained in a statement that the International Olympic Committee would cover the costs of replacing pitcher Miu Goto’s medal.
“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,” they said, according to Reuters.
The move follows an event last week hosted by Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura, during which he was seen in live broadcast footage removing his face mask and biting into the gold medal, drawing criticism amid safety concerns during the coronavirus pandemic.
A Nagoya City Hall official told CNN that it had received more than 8,000 complaints about Kawamura’s behavior, with some going so far as to call on him to resign.
Toyota, Japan’s biggest car company and the owner of the Red Terriers softball team for which Goto plays, joined in on the criticism, calling the mayor’s actions “inappropriate,” according to Japan public broadcaster NHK News.
“Under the strict infection control, the medalists put the medal on their neck by themselves,” Toyota said last week. “There was no respect shown or no infection measures.”
“We wish he would act like a responsible leader,” the automaker added.
Kawamura apologized at a Thursday press conference, expressing remorse for “damaging the gold medalist’s treasure.”
The mayor, who offered to pay for the medal’s replacement, said that he had also sent a written apology to Goto and the Japan Softball Association, according to CNN.
The Tokyo games previously took to Twitter during the games to jokingly comment on the trend of athletes biting into their Olympic medals, writing, “We just want to officially confirm that the #Tokyo2020 medals are not edible!”
We just want to officially confirm that the #Tokyo2020 medals are not edible!— #Tokyo2020 (@Tokyo2020) July 25, 2021
Our medals are made from material recycled from electronic devices donated by the Japanese public.
So, you don't have to bite them... but we know you still will #UnitedByEmotion