Don’t ever, ever bite ’em golds


TOKYO—A Japanese mayor apologized Thursday for biting the Olympic gold medal of a softball player who had paid a courtesy visit after Japan beat the United States in the final.

Nagoya City Mayor Takashi Kawamura had praised pitcher Miu Goto during the August 4 visit, but his eyes were glued to her medal. He asked her to put it around his neck. Kawamura then pulled down his face mask and bit into it.

“I’m really sorry that I hurt the treasure of the gold medalist,” Kawamura told reporters Thursday.

The mayor said the medal was undamaged, though he offered to pay for the cost of a new one.

Goto, however, has accepted the International Olympic Committee’s offer of a replacement, according to Japanese media reports.

The medal bite has become a staple of Olympic photo-ops—but for the winners themselves, not others.

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.


THE Tokyo Olympics have ended, but it’s still vacation season in Japan, and many people are ignoring government pleas to avoid travel and stay away from bars and restaurants even as the coronavirus spikes at record levels.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga is pinning his hopes on vaccinations, which started slow but now are making good progress. How this race between shots and disease finishes may determine Suga’s political future, not to mention the health of tens of thousands.

Suga seems optimistic vaccines will win, but with only about 36 percent of the population fully vaccinated, experts say the virus’s highly infectious delta variant is pulling ahead. They are urging the government to put more teeth in its weak state of emergency. Japan has managed the Covid-19 pandemic better than many countries, without the kind of restrictive lockdown used in other nations, but some believe that may now be needed.

Japan’s daily coronavirus cases have topped 10,000 for more than a week, and the total has doubled in the past four months to exceed 1 million.

Tokyo’s daily caseloads tripled during the Games that ended Sunday. And as hospitals fill up, nearly 18,000 infected people are isolating at home, over 10 times more than a month ago.

Suga has stressed the progress of the vaccine rollout despite its late and slow start.

More than 80 percent of Japan’s elderly population of 36 million have completed their vaccinations since they started getting shots in mid-April. Suga says high inoculation rates among seniors have contributed to a significant decline in the number of elderly patients, serious cases and deaths, relieving strain on the medical system.

“This clearly shows the vaccine efficacy,” Suga said, pledging to accelerate vaccinations among younger people. “The most effective way to slow the infections and minimize serious symptoms would be to give everyone two shots as soon as possible.”

Serious cases are now mostly among people in their 50s or younger, who are still largely unvaccinated. So far, 14 million—less than 20 percent of those aged 12 to 64 who are eligible for shots—have been fully vaccinated, according to Taro Kono, the minister in charge of vaccinations.

Suga said his goal of fully vaccinating all willing elderly people by the end of July has been mostly achieved. As he pushes to inoculate younger people, Suga aims to fully vaccinate 40 percent of all those 12 years and older by the end of August, and to complete shots for all those who wish to do so by October or November. AP

Image courtesy of AP

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