23 August, 2016

Prime Minister Mario?

It was a surprise to see Japan's Prime minister participating in the closing ceremony in Rio posing as Mario. I didn't actually see the closing ceremony till hours after it happened, so I had some warning via social media. But I wasn't the only one surprised:

Japan on Monday reacted with a mix of surprise, delight and cynicism at the sight of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dressed up as video game icon Super Mario in a comical cameo at the close of the Rio Olympics.
Social media immediately lit up as scenes of Abe wearing a Super Mario costume proved jaw-dropping to Japanese watching the spectacle on television half a world away.
“I was impressed to see a national leader sacrificing his reputation and showing up in cosplay at this world event,” posted a Japanese-language Twitter user. “He is great.”
Most had apparently never conceived of the normally blue-suited and politically conservative Abe and the moustachioed Mario merging into one. 
“I never thought of having Prime Minister Abe play Mario, let alone him emerging from plumbing,” another Twitter user said. (see the rest of the article here)
Another article by the BBC gives various other perspectives, including Twitter requests for Pokemon to be a sport in 2020! But this article does highlight the clues we got as to how Japan might approach hosting the next Olympics. "full and shameless advantage of Japan's pop culture icons". 

But there was also an emphasis on technology, with the appearance of robot-dressed actors. Just like most well-known countries, Japan is known by various stereotypes, including robots, technology, anime, manga, and not to forget sushi. So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that it is these that are used to promote the country.

Surfing the net doing a little bit of research for this post, I came across a quote about Tokyo2020 from Hikariko Ono, a spokesperson from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Committee:
"Everybody can experience hypermodern living and respect for historic values in Tokyo" (from here).
Well, I don't know about hypermodern living. Perhaps some visitors in down-town hotels will see that. That wouldn't be typical Japan, though it is the image that they want to project to the world, but I guess the Olympics generally aren't about giving visitors a typical experience of the host country. 

From the same article it does sound like they have very grand, futuristic plans. We'll see how much of that actually happens:
"Japan is known internationally for its technological innovations, so Tokyo 2020 organizers are aiming to launch ambitious tech projects that will boost the economy and wow crowds."
In writing this, I found the Tokyo2020 website. Interesting, including where venues are planned. Many of them around the bay near and even on the artificial island we visited a few weeks ago. I've never been living in a city that has the Olympics coming. It will be an interesting four years! Already we're seeing lots of train stations undergoing renovation and renewal. I imagine we'll see a lot more of that in the coming years. 

We've enjoyed the Olympics for the most part. Though we did see some lamentable behaviour from coaches and athletes. (A bizarre one that I don't think has received much air time was a bronze medal wresting match where a Mongolian wrestler didn't wrestle to the end and was penalised so that he ended up losing. His coaches stripped to their underwear in protest. Hmmm. Bad sports!)

We enjoyed the wrestling generally, though. Did you see the plush toy that the coaches were using for signalling they wanted to protest a decision? 

I'm glad to have my life simplified again so that I'm not fighting between the desire to watch more Olympics and get work done. Though I must say I'm looking forward to seeing a bit of the Paralympics, I hope that Japan's national broadcaster is as liberal in their coverage of it as they were the Olympics.

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