MADRID – A humble Spanish shoeshiner Monday surrendered the rights to a valuable Twitter account to publicize next year’s Rio Olympics for free, and he wants to do the same with the handle @japan for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Javier Castano, 50, handed over the password for the Twitter name @riodejaneiro to Rio de Janeiro City Hall.
Castano registered several key Twitter account names in 2007, when the online social network was in its early days.
“I am very happy now. My only remaining task is to hand over @japan,” he said.
Japanese government officials, however, said they had never heard of Castano and voiced reservations about accepting Twitter accounts from private individuals.
“There is no discussion, as far as I know, about setting up new accounts,” said an official who helps publish tweets for the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s office.
Castano said he spent years sending messages to city hall in Rio de Janeiro offering them the account. It said it has now finally replied to him and formally accepted.
“We are very happy to at last be able to use the name of our city on the social network,” Antonio Pedro Figueira Mello, Rio’s tourism secretary, said in a statement.
“This will be of great value now that we are getting closer to the Olympics.”
Castano was formerly a graphic designer but saw work dry up in Spain’s recent economic crisis. He now earns about €30 a day shining shoes in the streets of Malaga, southern Spain.
He insisted on giving the Twitter accounts only to the legitimate representatives of the Olympic host cities, for free.
“I am a shoe-shine man with not much money, but I have the privilege of being able to give a gift to 130 million Japanese people or 8 million people in Rio,” he said. “Could you do that?”
Castano has already handed over @canada and @madrid to authorities in those places, by sending them the passwords to the accounts once they formally accepted and confirmed their identity.