NAGOYA— An outspoken central Japan mayor has drawn fire after biting the Olympic gold medal won by a member of the Japan softball team, with the act described as "lacking respect" for the athlete and "insensitive" amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Nagoya Mayor Takashi Kawamura's stunt occurred Wednesday when Miu Goto, a 20-year-old native of the city, visited the municipal government following the team's victory over the United States at the ongoing Tokyo Olympics.
When Goto put the medal around the neck of Kawamura, he first grabbed it and said "it's heavy," before suddenly biting it without asking her permission.
Many people took to Twitter saying the gesture showed a "lack of awareness amid the surge of coronavirus cases" in Japan.
Toyota Motor Corp., which owns the club team Goto plays for, has also criticized Kawamura, saying in a statement, "it was an unworthy act and lacks respect" for the athlete's long-running efforts that helped the national softball team clinch victory.
"We truly hope (the mayor) will behave (appropriately) as a leader," said the company based in Toyota, near Nagoya.
Kawamura apologized Wednesday over his conduct. "It was the greatest expression of my affection. I'm sorry if I caused any trouble," he said in a statement.