Shinzo Abe had to be talked into the biggest crowd-pleasing moment of the Rio de Janeiro closing ceremony.

One of the biggest surprises of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics didn’t come on the field, in the pool, or in an arena, but during the closing ceremony when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popped out of a pipe dressed as video game legend Super Mario, as part of the baton being passed to the Summer Games next host nation. But as memorable as the moment was, it almost didn’t happen.

Abe resigned in August due to health issues, and with the extra free time in his schedule he recently sat down for an interview with Nikkan Sports, who asked him about the experience of cosplaying while being one of the most powerful politicians on the planet, to which he responded:

To be honest, when [Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee head Yoshiro] Mori first came to me with the idea [of appearing at the closing ceremony dressed as Super Mario], I didn’t like it [laughs]. ‘Is it really OK for a prime minister to dress up like Mario?’ I asked. As much as possible, I wanted to avoid any politicizing of the Olympics, and it’s a 20-hour flight to Rio.

But during Mori’s term as prime minister, I was his deputy chief cabinet secretary, so he was something of a mentor to me. ‘You’re the only one who can do this, since you’ve been serving as prime minister so long and are recognized internationally,’ he said, so I ended up doing it.

In addition to the 20-hour flight, Abe also recalls that the closing ceremony itself ran behind schedule, and so he spent an entire 10 minutes just standing around at the bottom of the Super Mario pipe he was hiding in, waiting for his cue to pop out.

“I was worried that dressing up like Mario would lead to people cracking jokes about me again,” he added with a chuckle, perhaps remembering the time when mentioning a fondness for Metallica didn’t go over too well. In the end, though, Abe sounds happy to have been talked into his foray into Nintendo cosplay. “But the plan was well made and well done. When I appeared in the stadium, the applause was tremendous, and after that at international conferences world leaders would tell me ‘I saw you dressed as Mario!’” He even ended up getting asked to sign an autograph by the head of the World Bank for his daughter, who’d been impressed by Abe Mario.

With Abe now resigned from politics, it’s unknown what, if any, capacity he’ll be appearing at the positioned Tokyo Olympics in 2021. The cosplay ball is now in current prime minister Yoshihide Suga’s court, though given his slenderer build in comparison to Abe, perhaps Luigi would be the more fitting choice of attire.

Source: Nikkan Sports via Hachima Kiko
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