Asia

Tokyo 2020 clues: when Japan's PM dressed up as Mario

  • 22 August 2016
  • From the section Asia
Closing ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 21/08/2016. Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe is seen on stage. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption What a time to be alive

With athletes and viewers exhausted, the closing ceremony for Rio2016 was passing off as expected...

Until Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popped out of a giant green pipe dressed up as video game character Mario from the Super Mario games, one of Japan's best-known exports.

It was then the world got a clue that, for Tokyo2020, the next Olympic hosts would take full and shameless advantage of Japan's pop culture icons.

Abe making pipe-dream a reality

The Tokyo2020 video beamed to audiences in Rio showed Mario running excitedly around Tokyo then jumping into his famous green pipe.

Cue the slow rise of the green pipe in Rio with a hunched Mario-like figure perched on top.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Prime Minister Abe popped out of a pipe just as the Mario character he was dressed as does in the Super Mario games

Japan's prime minister, not famous for his extrovert displays and pop culture references, emerges dressed as Mario and doffs his hat to enthusiastic crowds, then setting social media alight.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Shinzo Abe going full cosplay.
Image copyright @Raitthun
Image caption Twitter could barely contain itself

Some were quick to point out that Mr Abe was clearly the star of the show, overshadowing Tokyo's newly-elected mayor, Yuriko Koike, who was in attendance waving the Olympic flag and dressed in a kimono.

Image copyright @2012SATURI2010
Image caption "Laughing so hard as Yuriko in expensive kimono which was ruined by the rain received the Olympic flag but outdone by Abe's cheap Mario hat", said this tweet

The parade ended with Mr Abe holding aloft a now glowing red ball, Japan's rising sun.

Image copyright Getty Images

Mario for the uninitiated

Mario is a fictional character in the hugely popular Super Mario video game franchise created by Nintendo. A stout Italian plumber famous for his red cap and blue overalls, he has appeared in scores of video games, becoming the world's biggest selling video game franchise of all time.

Image copyright YOSHIKAZU TSUNO
Image caption Mario is a stout Italian plumber who is excellent at kart-racing

And what else can we look forward to in Tokyo?

Mario was not the only pop culture icon in attendance. Doraemon, the animation character with a famous magic pocket from which he can pull out gadgets from the future, also featured in a preview video, along with the mouth-less cat, Hello Kitty.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Doraemon is one of Japan's most famous characters
Image copyright AFP

Some requests for Tokyo from social media

1. Please can Studio Ghibli help direct the opening ceremony? There were calls for Japan's most famous film studio, Studio Ghibli, known for its fantastical tales and extraordinary animation to have a role in the opening ceremony.

Image copyright @wendeego

2. Can Pokemon Go become a sport in 2020? There were no Pokemon characters in the ceremony - about the only place they haven't appeared in the past few weeks - but that did not stop people from suggesting it could become a sport in four years time.

Image copyright @damienics

3. Can Tokyo2020 be staffed entirely by robots? Many put in requests for robot volunteers to staff the Olympics or at least the ceremonies to employ robots as performers.

Image copyright @tejashpatel_

In Japan, the interest in the ceremony was also fevered, with people apparently excited and delighted by their cosplay PM's guest appearance.

Some even felt the need to mark the once-in-a-lifetime event with caffeine.

Image copyright @GEORGE_10G
Image caption PM Abe's face was translated into coffee art

Others, however, weren't as impressed, with one commenting that the event was "nothing compared" to Queen Elizabeth playing a Bond girl in the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

Yet Mr Abe's appearance has provided some form of positive coverage for the Tokyo Games, which has been plagued by controversy. Tokyo was accused of plagiarising its initial Olympic 2020 logo, which it eventually changed, and the original stadium design by architect Zaha Hadid was scrapped due to spiralling costs.

But for now, it seems many people are putting its bad publicity aside, and expecting their minds to be blown by whatever Tokyo has planned for four years' time.

Image copyright EPA

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