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OLYMPICS

Tongan luger uncovered as underwear PR hoax

The heart-warming story of a man from the South Pacific island of Tonga sharing his name with the German underwear company bankrolling his Olympic luge dreams has been exposed as an elaborate marketing hoax.

Tongan luger uncovered as underwear PR hoax
Photo: DPA

The latest edition of Der Spiegel magazine reported the 24-year-old Bruno Banani, who is known for his “Coconut Powered” catchphrase, is really named Fuahea Semi.

And though he is indeed Tongan and is training with the German national luge team, his story – that he is the son of a coconut farmer with long-shot dreams of competing with the world’s best lugers – was a fabrication by German guerilla marketing firm Makai Europe, the magazine reported.

While he his now sponsored by the Bruno Banani underwear firm, Semi is actually the son of a cassava farmer and was recruited during a casting session in Tonga after which the PR firm convinced the Tongan government to issue a passport for him in his “new name.” He was then shipped off to Germany to begin training for this February’s Luge World Championships in Saxony, Der Spiegel reported.

At the same time the Bruno Banani underwear company promoted him on their website, and got great PR, including a recent report on the ZDF television network.

Mathias Isle, one of Makai’s executives, told Der Spiegel that the idea came about because the company was desperate for customers and wanted to do something to get them on the map.

“We wanted to prove to the world that we have good ideas,” he said.

He did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Local.

It is not entirely clear how Makai is connected to the Bruno Banani company or whether managers there knew of the fraud.

Company head Jan Jassner said he hadn’t known but pledged that he remained on Banani’s side as he continues to learn how to luge.

“We will continue to support Bruno,” he said.

The Local/mdm

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OLYMPICS

Germany’s Interior Minister rules out ‘unthinkable’ bid to host 2036 Olympics

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has ruled out a bid to host the 2036 Olympics, saying in an interview that it would be "unthinkable" on the 100th anniversary of the Nazi-era 1936 Games in Berlin.

Germany's Interior Minister rules out 'unthinkable' bid to host 2036 Olympics
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer. Photo: DPA

Held three years before the outbreak of the Second World War, the 1936 games are widely remembered as a propaganda coup for Adolf Hitler's Nazi regime.

In March this year, Berlin's state minister of the interior Andreas Geisel faced heavy criticism after he appeared to suggest Berlin should bid for the 2036 Olympics in an interview with Tagesspiegel newspaper.

However, the 69-year-old Seehofer, whose ministry also holds the sports portfolio, said Germany could not be seen to celebrate the centenary of the Nazi-era Berlin Olympics.

“It would be unthinkable. If we did that, we would bring on an unspeakable international discussion and harm the Olympic idea,” he told Frankfurt-based newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) in an interview published on Monday.

“How would people see it across the world? Germany celebrating the 100-year anniversary of the Nazi Olympics? That cannot happen.”

Aside from concerns over associations with the Nazi regime, there is scant public support for hosting the Olympics in Germany.

READ ALSO: Interior Ministry begs for more cash after 'forgetting' landmark reunification celebration

Public referendums, in 2015 and 2013, rejected proposed Olympic bids to host the summer games in Hamburg and a winter edition in Munich respectively.

Seehofer said that he was generally in favour of a German Olympic bid, but voiced concern that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had become too focused on commercial success.

“In the eyes of the public, the IOC has wandered too far from its original idea and into commercialism,” he told the FAZ.

He called on the IOC to “de-commercialise” and said he had “a lot of sympathy” for the German Athletes' Commission, which last year demanded that the IOC share a quarter of its profits with Olympic participants.

By Kit Holden

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