Present at the Rio Olympics’ closing ceremony on Sunday (August 21st), which handed the baton to Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics, were Hello Kitty, Doraemon, Tsubasa Oozora from the influential sports manga and anime Captain Tsubasa, Pac-Man and, of course, Mario in an irresistible pun thought up by Japanese Olympic Organizing Committee president Yoshiro Mori. But even as Shinzo Abe, Mori’s successor as Japanese Prime Minister, popped up in Mario cosplay to the crowd’s delight, viewers across the world felt something was strangely absent.
Despite widespread rumours, including a report from UK news website The Telegraph, that a Pokémon reference was “inevitable” after the wildfire success of Pokémon GO, the beloved pocket monsters never made an appearance. But according to Buzzfeed Japan, there are clear-cut explanations for this apparent error of judgement. An unnamed Tokyo Olympic/Paralympic Committee member made it known that the team behind the closing ceremony started preparations in January, long before Pokémon GO made its huge US debut in July. Furthermore, Mario games have outsold Pokémon games by 320 million to 200 million, and at the time of preparations for the ceremony, Pokémon was not as well known worldwide by comparison.
In other words, a Pokémon appearance wasn’t quite right at this particular time, considering that the characters who did are more broadly representative of a Japan deeply influenced by animation and games, and which has provided international inspiration and recognition. But it goes without saying that the franchise will make an appearance at the Tokyo 2020 opening ceremony, which will display the “cutting edge science and technology” inherent in the country’s history and culture. Otherwise, the next opening ceremony has not been determined yet, as the organisation team will assemble and begin research sometime from 2017-2018.