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Tonga's Olympic Luger Is An Underwear Marketing Stunt

To be clear, Bruno Banani deserves to be here. He qualified with a 28th-place finish at a World Cup race in December. But everything about him—from his background to his biography to his very name—is the whole-cloth creation of an underwear company.

Answering an open call from Tonga's royal family to find a Winter Olympian, Fuahea Semi, a student and rugby player, showed he had what it took to luge. But with the island nation short of cash, Semi became wrapped up in a bizarre marketing scheme. German underwear maker Bruno Banani moved him to Germany to train, made him the face of its new line of "Coconut Power" briefs, and had him compete under the same name as the company.


Under questionable circumstances, Tonga issued him a new passport and birth certificate under the name "Bruno Banani." When the stunt was exposed, the IOC's president called it "a perverse marketing idea," but said they could not stop him from competing as long as he qualified. He did, and he's in Sochi.

Below, our story from 2012 when Banani's true background was revealed.

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