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Japan PM Abe appears at Olympics closing ceremony dressed as Mario

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe surprised Olympic fans by emerging from a green warp pipe dressed as the iconic Nintendo video game character as a way to set the stage for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

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    Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears as the Nintendo game character Mario during the closing ceremony at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Sunday.
    Yu Nakajima/Kyodo News/AP
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It’s a me, Abe.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, disguised as Mario, the video game character, was the star of the closing ceremony of the Olympics Sunday, as the Olympic flag was passed from Rio to Tokyo for the 2020 Summer Games.

Known for his stoicism and penchant for suits, Mr. Abe added the popular Nintendo character’s red hat to his wardrobe, emerging from an oversized green drainpipe during the ceremony.

In this scene of levity, Abe showed the Olympics can be a uniting force.

Even China's Communist Party newspaper People's Daily, not a fan of hawkish Abe, put out a tweet.

The closing ceremony of the Olympics traditionally features cultural presentations from both the current and next host countries. 

In the ceremony, Abe traveled from Tokyo to Rio in a two-minute promotional video the 2020 organizers aired to preview the next Summer Games. The video included athletes, Japanese landmarks, and popular Anime and video game characters. In addition to images of the Tokyo Tower, cherry blossoms, a bullet train, Tokyo Bay Bridge, and the famous "scramble" intersection in Shibuya, the video flashed Hello Kitty and Pac-Man.

The beloved Doraemon cat from the Japanese manga series then whisks Abe from a taxi in Tokyo, through the drainpipe, to the Rio stage. Then a real Abe, with the red Mario cap and a glowing red ball kicked to him from famed manga soccer star Captain Tsubasa, emerged from the pipe during the closing ceremonies last night.

Abe was expected to have a cameo, but having him appear as the popular Nintendo video game character was something else. The Twitterverse was alight with comments.

Some couldn’t help but poke fun at Abe’s political history, including the controversy of Yasukuni, the shrine in Tokyo, which honors all who died for the Japanese Empire, including more than 1,000 World War II-era war criminals. Abe visited the shrine once in 2013, drawing strong reactions from China and South Korea. South Korea and China view the shrine as a reminder of Japanese militarism and wartime atrocities.

“Prime Minister, you managed not to make a mistake,” wrote @sazanami_kyodai, according to a translation by The New York Times. The Twitter user added a picture of three drainpipes, labeled the prime minister’s office, Yasukuni, and Rio.

Tokyo 2020 organizers said in a statement that the idea emerged from a brainstorming session. Nintendo would say only that the government asked to borrow the character for the show.

Abe's non-politicized appearance occurred the same day an Ethiopian marathon runner, Feyisa Lelisa, crossed the finish line with his hands above his head in an "X." The silver medalist's gesture was to protest the Ethiopian government killing hundreds of the country's Oromo people. 

This report contains material from the Associated Press. 

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