For a moment, Japan's prime minister was recognizable around the world.
Shinzo Abe was dressed as Super Mario, Japan's biggest cultural export. He popped up out of a green pipe in the middle of Rio De Janeiro's Maracana Stadium representing his country, where the next Olympic Games will take place. He quickly shed the costume to reveal his usual attire: a dark suit. A presentation heavy on computer holograms followed, with the 61-year-old awkwardly holding a big red ball and waving a plumber's hat. The reaction on Twitter was predictably enthusiastic.
It was a nice plug for video-game maker Nintendo Co., the creator of the franchise that has made Mario, Zelda and other beloved characters recognized around the world. Shares of the Kyoto-based company rose about 3 percent.
The committee organizing the 2020 Games approached Nintendo about the cameo and the company complied, said spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa. He didn't say whether Nintendo would be a sponsor or be involved in any other way.
Super Mario debuted as a plumber in Nintendo's early video games about three decades ago. For years, the Japanese government has used public funds to hire workers and update the country's urban waterworks to stimulate the sluggish economy.
Yoshihide Suga, Japan's top government spokesman, said Abe's appearance was to help promote the Tokyo Olympics.
(A previous version of this story corrected the date of the Tokyo Olympics in the fourth paragraph.)
—With assistance from Pavel Alpeyev and Andy Sharp in Tokyo.