The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janerio concluded on Sunday night in a gala ceremony that included lavish displays of national and international patriotism as befits the games; complete with costumes and elaborate dance productions that were only slightly hampered by a sudden rain event. Though this year's games had been plagued by various controversies surrounding the even itself and the behaviors of certain athletes, the official close served as a reminder of the Olympics at their traditional best.
However, video game fans got an unexpected treat when it came time for the traditional handover to the host country of the next games -- a featured cameo by Super Mario himself to represent Japan's 2020 games.
As part of a multimedia presentation teasing the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, a video (viewable here -- the full version of which has been officially posted online) played featuring Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe worrying from the backseat of his car that he will be late to arrive at the ceremony. This inspires him to don a red cap identical to that worn by Mario (but with "TOKYO" replacing the red "M" insignia) which transforms him into the a CGI Mario; enabling him to leap into one of the classic Nintendo game's iconic green warp-pipes (helpfully installed by equally iconic anime mascot Doraemon) and travel through the center of the Earth.
With a little help from Mario, Tokyo is ready to host the 2020 Olympics.
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) August 22, 2016
A "real" green pipe then appeared in the center of the Olympic stadium, from which the actual Prime Minister Abe emerged wearing a breakaway Mario costume and holding up a large red ball. As a final touch, the hand off was made official by a fireworks display set to the level-completion music from the original Super Mario Bros. (which was itself often accompanied by fireworks in the games).
The Nintendo corporation is no stranger to association with the Olympics, having published a succession of officially licensed Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games tie-in games that feature the one time console wars rival mascots teaming up to compete along with their supporting casts in various Olympic events for the last several Games. However, this is the first time their characters have been officially associated with the Olympics in a real-world capacity.
Along with Mario and Doraemon (canonically, a robot cat sent back in time from the 22nd Century by a young inventor to aid his own luckless ancestors), the spectacle also featured appearances from Pac-Man (arguably the most popular video game character prior to the creation of Mario), merchandising mascot Hello Kitty and Captain Tsubasa; the title character of a football-themed manga series that is enormous popular with Japanese fans and football athletes in particular. While Mario is traditionally characterized as an Italian-American plumber who battles evil in a fairytale kingdom, he was created in Japan by game designer Shigeru Miyamoto and (like Doraemon) is considered a significant icon of Japanese pop-culture globally.
Source: NBC Sports