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Japan’s prime minister became ‘Super Mario’ at the Olympic closing ceremony

It’s not every day you see a world leader dressed up as a famous video game character, but that’s exactly what happened during the Rio Olympics’ closing ceremony on Sunday night.

The character in question? Only Mario from Nintendo’s wildly successful Super Mario franchise. Oh, and the leader? None other than the prime minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe.

Of course, there was good reason for the stunt; it wasn’t like he just showed up wearing the outfit because that’s what he likes to do in his spare time. His surprise appearance was actually part of the closing ceremony, with Japan, as the next city to host the Games, given a few minutes during Sunday night’s show to offer a flavor of what to expect from Tokyo 2020.

Abe as Mario

In a video sequence played as part of the evening’s extravagant proceedings, we see Prime Minister Abe moving slowly through Tokyo traffic in an official car (full sequence at the bottom of this page). He’s concerned that he won’t make it to Rio in time for the closing ceremony, and considering it’s already well underway, he’s absolutely right.

It’s at this point he magically transforms into Mario, and with the help of another famous Japanese creation – manga character Doraemon – he speedily tunnels a Super Mario green pipe all the way to Rio’s Olympic Stadium. Like you do.

Next thing we know, Mario bursts out from the ground, slap in the center of the packed stadium, the familiar costume falling away to reveal Prime Minister Abe. Yes, it’s the real Abe. In Rio’s Olympic Stadium. Dressed as Mario.

The crowd was suitably surprised, and quite possibly impressed, though we can’t help thinking about the meeting where the idea was posed to the PM: “So we want you to, like, tunnel through Earth to get to Rio and, well, then you burst out of the ground dressed up as, err … Mario.” Abe: “Where do I sign up?”

Related: This incredible hyperlapse showcases the beauty and bustle of Tokyo

Sunday’s unexpected stunt was reminiscent of the one pulled at London 2012 during its opening ceremony. There we saw the Queen meeting with James Bond, the pair of them leaving Buckingham Palace in a helicopter before parachuting into the stadium. At least, we assume it was the Queen.