A Japanese mayor has apologised for biting the Olympic gold medal of Japanese softball pitcher Miu Goto.
Goto visited Nagoya City Hall on August 4 to celebrate Japan beating the United States to claim gold at the Tokyo Olympics.
The city's Mayor Takashi Kawamura praised Goto in a speech before asking if he could wear the gold medal around his neck. He then pulled his face mask down and bit into it.
Toyota Motor Corp, which is one of Nagoya’s biggest employers and owns the Red Terriers softball team that Goto plays for was also revolted.
"It is unfortunate that he was unable to feel admiration and respect for the athlete," Toyota said in a statement. "It is extremely regrettable that he was unable to give consideration to infection prevention."
The mayor issued a televised apology after Toyota released its statement.
"I'm really sorry that I hurt the treasure of the gold medalist," Kawamura told reporters.
The mayor had offered to pay for a new medal and said it was undamaged.
The scene prompted thousands to complain to city hall with Kawamura facing criticism on social media from athletes and the public for lacking respect and ignoring COVID-19 protocols.
"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."
The Japanese pitcher has accepted the International Olympic Committee's offer of a replacement medal, according to Japanese media reports.