Shinzo Abe

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Japan prime minister, Tokyo Olympic organizers monitor coronavirus

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TOKYO (AP) — Concern about the spreading coronavirus outbreak in China and its impact on this year’s Tokyo Olympics reached Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Monday.

Abe was asked about the virus by an opposition lawmaker, but he brushed aside worries.

“We will respond appropriately,” Abe said, speaking in Japanese, “while closely cooperating with the World Health Organization and other international organizations so that we can proceed with the preparations without letting it affect the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.”

Japan has not reported any fatalities from the outbreak, while China has reported more than 300 deaths from the virus and more than 17,000 cases.

The Olympics open July 24.

Tokyo organizers and the International Olympic Committee have said there are no plans to cancel or postpone the Olympics. Tokyo Governor Yurkio Koike has urged vigilance said there will be “regrets” if there isn’t a maximum effort made.

Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto said Tokyo organizers and representatives from local municipalities would meet next week to discuss measures against the virus.

The modern Olympics, dating from 1896, have been called off during wartime and faced boycotts in 1980 and 1984. They have evolved in the last few decades into a multi-billion dollar event with massive investments from television and sponsors.

About 11,000 athletes will attend the Olympics. Many of them still need to qualify and could face qualifying events canceled or postponed if the virus continues to spread outside China.

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Nintendo earned free Super Mario advertising at Rio Olympic Closing Ceremony

Shinzo Abe
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TOKYO (AP) — How much did Nintendo pay to land that dream marketing opportunity at the Rio Olympics closing ceremony, where Japan’s prime minister popped out dressed as the red-hatted plumber Super Mario?

Zero.

The Japanese video game maker behind “Pokemon” and “Zelda” got the coveted stage that corporate sponsors pay millions for after they were approached by those creating the festivities for “cooperation,” not the other way around, says Nintendo Co. spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa.

“I want to make that clear. We did not pay,” he said in a telephone interview. “And we are not going to become Olympic sponsors either.”

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe‘s emergence in a Super Mario costume was the highlight of the handover section for Tokyo, the host of the 2020 games.

The segment was so favorably received in Japan as surprisingly playful and tasteful, given the staidness usually associated with Japan Inc., that Abe earned a new nickname, “Abe-Mario.”

Tokyo city official Masahiro Hayashi said Japan’s top advertising company Dentsu Inc. was tapped to produce the handover segment, with a total budget for the Rio Olympics and the Paralympics of 1.2 billion yen ($12 million).

He refused to say how much Dentsu was paid, or give other details.

The city of Tokyo and the organizing committee are under intense pressure to trim costs, which have ballooned over the years, partly because of the weakening yen but also because planning fiascos, such as decisions to redo designs for both the main stadium and the Tokyo 2020 logo.

Organizing committee spokesman Motoki Okumura would not give details of the spending for the closing ceremony. Dentsu also declined to comment.

“Top Olympic sponsors pay millions of dollars to the IOC for permission to promote their brands to a massive global audience. Nintendo just did it for free. With Japan’s prime minister as their pitchman. Easily the marketing coup of the Rio Games,” said Bob Dorfman, a sports marketing analyst and creative director at Baker Street Advertising of San Francisco.

Purists might feel the commercial branding was a bit overdone, and argue for other ways to promote Japanese culture, according to Dorfman, who has lived in Japan.

“But gaming and anime are certainly major aspects of modern Japan, and Mario is a universal icon. As someone who doesn’t take sports or the Olympics too seriously, I found the whole thing pretty funny and entertaining,” he said.

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Japan’s prime minister wants to hold Robot Olympics in 2020

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In 2020, the youth of the world will assemble in Tokyo for the Olympics. Japan’s prime minister has designs on hosting another event in six years.

“In 2020, I would like to gather all of the world’s robots and aim to hold an Olympics where they compete in technical skills,” prime minister Shinzo Abe said, according reports citing Jiji Press agency. “We want to make robots a major pillar of our economic growth strategy.”

Abe said he wanted to create a “robotic revolution,” tripling the nation’s industry for the machines to $24 billion.

Abe might face a challenge from something called the RoboGames, which bills itself as the annual Olympics of Robots, including sumo bots and androids that do kung-fu.

But considering the Sochi Olympic torch relay went into outer space, to the bottom of Lake Baikal and the North Pole, maybe robots are the next frontier.

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