Shinzo Abe dressed as Super Mario at Rio closing ceremony is today’s weirdest/greatest moment in geopolitics

PUBLISHED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 2:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 22 August, 2016, 3:23pm

He has a reputation as a hardline conservative, rarely seen dressed in anything except austere business attire or the anachronistic swallow-tailed morning suit favoured by Japanese politicians on formal occasions.

Before the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would likely have topped polls of “least likely to appear on world stage dressed as a video game character”.

Yet up he popped - literally, emerging vertically from a giant green pipe - dressed in the familiar blue overalls and red cap of the moustachioed game icon Super Mario. The bizarre cameo came at the end of the introductory video for the 2020 Tokyo games, as the Rio games ended with an exuberant closing ceremony.

He quickly shed the costume to reveal his usual attire: a dark suit. A presentation heavy on computer holograms followed, with the 61-year-old awkwardly holding a big red ball and waving his plumber’s hat. The reaction on Twitter was predictably enthusiastic.

It was a nice plug for video-game maker Nintendo Co, the creator of the franchise that has made Mario, Zelda and other beloved characters recognised around the world. Shares of the Kyoto-based company rose about 3 per cent.

“The Japanese government will... work hard so it will be the best Olympics ever,” Abe said.

The committee organising the 2020 Games approached Nintendo about the cameo and the company complied, said spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa. He didn’t say whether Nintendo would be a sponsor or be involved in any other way.

Super Mario debuted as a plumber in Nintendo’s early video games about three decades ago. For years, the Japanese government has used public funds to hire workers and update the country’s urban waterworks to stimulate the sluggish economy.

Yoshihide Suga, Japan’s top government spokesman, would only say that Abe’s odd appearance was to help promote the Tokyo Olympics.

Agence France-Presse and Bloomberg

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