Ex-Japanese premier Abe Shinzo receives Olympic Order

Recognised for leading Japan through Tokyo 2020 bid and postponement, plus his Rio 2016 Closing Ceremony cameo as Super Mario.

By Shintaro Kano

Ex-Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo on Monday (16 November) received the Olympic Order, the highest honour of the Olympic Movement.

Abe, 66, was bestowed the award by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach during a ceremony at the Japan Olympic Museum.

Abe is the first prime minister from Japan to receive the Olympic Order. He is the 63rd Japanese recipient overall, and the first in four years.

“Ever since that September day in Buenos Aires, you have demonstrated your unwavering commitment to the Olympic Games and the Olympic values”, Bach said referring to the IOC Session on 7 September, 2013 - when Tokyo was named host city of the 2020 Olympic Games.

“This was evident in all your personal engagement in overseeing and supporting the preparations for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. With your unfaltering belief in the power of sport, it is no exaggeration to say that you have forged a special friendship with the Olympic community”.

IOC President Thomas Bach awards the Olympic Order to Abe Shinzo on Monday.

Abe - who resigned as primer minister in September 2020 and was succeeded by Suga Yoshihide - said it was a childhood dream to be involved in the Games.

Abe was also named Honorary Supreme Advisor to the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee last month.

His grandfather, Kishi Nobusuke, also helped lure the Games to Tokyo as prime minister for the 1964 Olympics.

“I understand that this Gold Order given to me today is the highest award that honour the greatest contributions made to enhance the Olympic Movement”, Abe said in his acceptance speech.

“I am also aware that the order's first recipient was none other than Avery Brundage, the President of the IOC when Tokyo hosted its first Olympics. I must say that I feel even humbler.

“Because I have never forgotten my childhood memory that how, on that momentous day of the opening ceremony, in his deep resounding voice, and in Japanese, no less, Mr. Brundage requested that His Majesty the Emperor declare the opening of the Olympiad. I am now part of the line he initiated.

“Tokyo 2020 will be the Games that extol the nobleness of the human spirit, in which we stand up time and time again, no matter how many times we are defeated”.

Abe was recognised for overseeing Tokyo 2020’s successful bid and the Games’s postponement in March to the summer of 2021, all the while steering the country through the initial wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

But Abe will likely be most affably remembered in the Olympic circle for his scene-stealing performance during the Rio 2016 Closing Ceremony, when he dressed up his Super Mario in a surprise cameo.

“Your dedication to the Olympic cause reached new heights at the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games Rio 2016”, Bach reflected. “I will never forget the moment that you appeared in the middle of the Olympic Stadium dressed up as Super Mario.

“In doing so, you wrote Olympic history and promoted Japanese culture on the world stage in an unforgettable and creative way. At the same time, you also demonstrated a sense of humour and light-heartedness, which took many people around the world by surprise."

“I am already looking forward to seeing you at the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, and we can all start to guess what costume you will wear on this occasion”.

From one from prime minister to another, Tokyo 2020 President Mori Yoshiro added, “In the video game, Mario has a friend he trusts named Yoshi.

“My name is Yoshiro. I hope we can continue to work hand in hand like Mario and Yoshi towards the success of the Tokyo Games”.