August 19, 2018 / 11:40 AM / 4 months ago

Vroom! Indonesia president a hit on social media after motorbike stunt

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Indonesian President Joko Widodo has created a buzz on social media after a video sequence shown at the opening ceremony of the 18th Asian Games culminated with the 57-year-old leader roaring into Jakarta’s main stadium on a powerful motorbike.

2018 Asian Games – Opening ceremony - GBK Main Stadium – Jakarta, Indonesia – August 18, 2018 – An actor impersonating Indonesia's President Joko Widodo rides a motorbike. REUTERS/Cathal Mcnaughton

After his motorcade is held up by Jakarta’s notorious traffic, the tongue-in-cheek video showed a formally dressed Widodo hopping onto a motorbike and apparently leaping obstacles and navigating alleyways before riding into the stadium.

A seemingly unruffled Widodo then took his seat before opening the Games on Saturday evening at a spectacular ceremony involving around 4,000 dancers and a 600-tonne tropical landscape stage set complete with volcano.

By Sunday, the video of the president’s dash across the city had more than 800,000 views on a YouTube posting by official broadcaster SCTV.

It has also been a hit on Twitter, with the hashtags #proudtobeindonesian and #stuntman trending in the Southeast Asian country, where many of the 260 million people are avid social media users.

One Twitter user with the handle @dethabun even likened the performance of the president, who is often known by his nickname Jokowi, to actor Tom Cruise in the action movie “Mission: Impossible”.

“This is only in Indonesia, My President looks a like @TomCruise on Mission Impossible movie, Bravo Pak @jokowi, You’re da Best..,” the tweet said.

Some noted that the stunt appeared to draw inspiration from London’s 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony where a video including a cameo performance by Queen Elizabeth and also James Bond actor Daniel Craig appeared to show the British monarch skydiving into the stadium.

Indonesian media has speculated over what parts of the president’s video were actually carried out by a stunt actor rather than Widodo, a self-confessed motorcycle fan who is often depicted riding motorbikes.

Some commentators and social media users also suggested it would be irresponsible for him to actually do his own stunts, pointing to the risk of an accident or even militant attack.

An opposition politician accused the country’s leader of using the ceremony to try to try to burnish his image with young voters ahead of elections next year.

Rachland Nashidik, deputy secretary general of the opposition Democrat Party, said on his Twitter page the video aimed to “masterfully” create an image to forget the country’s more fundamental problems over trade deficits which “doesn’t make us proud, let alone adoring.”

Artist-turned-activist Ratna Sarumpaet said she felt the video was “tacky”, a waste of money and in poor taste after a recent series of deadly earthquakes in Indonesia’s resort island of Lombok.

The last time Indonesia hosted the Asian Games in 1962, the country’s first president Sukarno was accused by some of hosting the Games as a vanity project at a time when the economy was also struggling.

Reporting by Tabita Diela, Fanny Potkin and Jessica Damiana; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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