After two weeks of non-stop athleticism, patriotism, and the occasional scandal, the 2016 Olympics are finally coming to an end. The closing ceremony, held on Sunday, Aug. 21, honored the culture of host city Rio de Janeiro — but it also showed us what’s in store for 2020, when Tokyo is slated to host the Games. In addition to the expected showcase of Japan’s amazing athletes and unique culture, the Tokyo 2020 teaser included an appearance from Super Mario.
In an endearing teaser clip, Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe morphed into Super Mario, raced through Tokyo (while on his way to Rio), and even came out of a real-life Warp Pipe at the closing ceremony. In the clip, an animation showed a drill going through the earth, all the way from Tokyo, Japan to Rio’s Maracana Stadium, where the real Abe emerged from a Warp Pipe and took off his Mario disguise.
The iconic video game character is one of the most famous to come out of Japan. Mario first appeared in 1981 as part of Nintendo’s Donkey Kong game and was so popular he became both the protagonist of his own series and Nintendo’s mascot. There’s even a video game series, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, starring the eponymous characters and other Nintendo creatures.
“The Olympics is about gathering everyone, from young to old, together,” Laurent Fischer, Nintendo Europe’s marketing director, told Computer and Video Games in a 2007 interview. “In that spirit, we thought this the best time for Sonic and Mario to be in a game together.” It’s only fitting that Mario made an appearance at the closing ceremony, where the torch was passed from Rio to Tokyo.
“When I heard the name Tokyo, I was so touched, overwhelmed,” Abe said in 2013 after the International Olympic Committee picked the Japanese city as the host of the 2020 Summer Olympics, beating out contenders Istanbul and Madrid. “The joy was even greater than when I won my own election.”
If the 2020 Olympics can be predicted by Tokyo’s performance in Rio tonight, it’s safe to say they can’t come soon enough. Although the Olympics are ending tonight — and although there’s definitely such thing as having too much of a good thing — I’m already excited for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Hopefully Mario will make another appearance, and maybe he'll even bring Luigi, Peach, and Yoshi along with him. Some are even speculating that Mario will be the official Olympics mascot... but maybe it's too soon to tell.