Shinzo Abe

Week 150 (20 – 26 August 2016)

"Yes" was all Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe needed to say in order to deliver a message about the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games that will characterise the next four years of preparations.

Abe said "yes" to the suggestion that he, Japan's head of government, dressed up as the iconic Nintendo computer game character Super Mario and played a part in Tokyo 2020's handover ceremony at the Rio 2016 Closing Ceremony.

Leaving aside the obvious security risks involved in placing Abe in the centre of a stadium without any of his entourage close by, the potential risk to reputation - should the stunt have gone wrong - was significant.

But having agreed to it, having agreed to communicate to the world a lighter side of his and Japan's national character, Abe was a faultless performer.

For those who haven't seen the handover, Abe's scene starts with him in the back of a government car in Tokyo declaring that he “will not make it to Rio in time!”

He then morphs into Super Mario whilst the scene blends into a computer game, transporting him through the centre of the earth, from Tokyo to Rio. On arrival in Rio, where human reality returns, Abe, dressed as Super Mario, bursts out of a giant green pipe in the centre of the Maracanã Stadium. The image only lasts for a moment before Abe's attire falls away to reveal Abe the power politician, dressed in a suit, waving to a stunned crowded in the stadium and a disbelieving TV audience.

In that small moment Tokyo 2020 distinguished itself from Beijing 2008's power and pride and London 2012's energy and humour, with its own identity, which it can build a narrative around over the next four years.

And all because Shinzo Abe said "yes".

Photo: New Straits Times