As the worldwide partner of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, Toyota is on a quest to inspire and mobilise athletes through innovative mobility solutions and by appointing local para athletes as ambassadors to share their stories
When Japan was chosen to host the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, it seemed only fitting for the most-recognised Japanese vehicle brand to back this iconic sporting event. Toyota has a passion for mobility that goes beyond simply manufacturing reliable vehicles, and wants to inspire people of all abilities to push beyond their limits to reach their impossible goals while providing access to mobility for all.
The company started this journey by designing innovative transport solutions for the games. The e-Palette buses are arguably the most notable example: These electric vehicles are fully automatic and will provide loop-line transport for staff and athletes in the Olympic village. A total of 20 vehicles will run for the duration of the event.
Development leader of the e-Palette initiative, Takahiro Muta, says: “Olympic and Paralympic athletes work tirelessly to achieve the impossible and we wanted to provide them with a vehicle specifically designed and calibrated to fit their mobility needs during Tokyo 2020.
“Throughout the development process, athletes, especially para athletes, helped us to understand better how we could adapt and upgrade the e-Palette to meet the need for simple, convenient and comfortable mobility.” These adaptations include large doors and electric ramps.
The e-Palette buses are also built to allow up to four wheelchair users to board the vehicle along with standing passengers. They reflect Toyota’s transition to electrification, connected networks and advanced driving technologies to support shared mobility.
Toyota is also encouraging people to dream big and go beyond their limits to achieve their impossible, with some super athletes at the heart of its #StartYourImpossible campaign. It is a call to action to create a more inclusive and sustainable society in which every single person is encouraged to reach for and attain his or her personal best.
The campaign highlights the stories of everyday people and athletes who demonstrate the values of humility, hard work and tenacity in the face of adversity. In August, Toyota South Africa Motors (TSAM) told the story of the young athlete and TSAM ambassador Ntando Mahlangu, who was also featured on the cover of ROLLING INSPIRATION (Issue 2 of 2019).
Along with the talented Mahlangu, TSAM has also appointed former gold medallist and para athlete Pieter Badenhorst as its social media ambassador. Badenhorst competed in three Paralympics, of which the first was in 1992, when he won gold in the 400 m. This year he will be part of the Olympic Torch Relay that will take place in and around the Japan prefectures from April leading up to the games.
When he announced his participation in this exciting event, Badenhorst highlighted Toyota’s goal to create a peaceful, inclusive society through sport and mobility. “It’s never too late to Start your Impossible,” he said. “Together we can inspire change.”
The third TSAM ambassador is Tyrone Pillay, who is also part of the Global Team Toyota Athletes – a team supported by Toyota Motor Corporation. Pillay has been working for Toyota for more than 13 years and is an avid cricket fan, children’s mentor, para athlete and bronze medallist – he won at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games for shot put.
He achieved his own impossible by becoming a bronze medallist for South Africa. “To start your impossible, the most important thing is always to believe in yourself. When you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything,” Pillay says. “You have to start somewhere, so start with a belief in yourself.”
More than just a dream
TSAM has, however, gone beyond simply sharing inspirational stories. It is giving back to the communities, starting with its partnership with the South African Sports Association of the Physically Disabled (SASAPD). Last year, the vehicle manufacturer entered into a three-year agreement to support the organisation and its annual National Championships – an epic five-day sporting event.
SASAPD is a federation that promotes sport among athletes with disabilities and visual impairments, from grassroots to Paralympic level. It currently caters for 12 regions throughout the country and for five disability groups, including spinal cord injuries, amputees, cerebral palsied, visually impaired and blind. All sporting events conform to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) regulations so that new records are recognised by the organisation.
The backing from TSAM makes it easier to host the event, and allows SASAPD to support more young athletes in their development.
“At Toyota, we believe movement and mobility in all its definitions are all around us,” says Glenn Crompton, vice president of marketing at TSAM, about the partnership.
“Sport has the power to connect people. This is where we learn the true power of sport: It can challenge us, inspire us and, most importantly, unify us. Toyota shares the vision to inspire people to push onward – past their finish line, past their impossible. We believe that you can achieve great things when you move. We are wholeheartedly committed to unleashing human potential through the power of movement,” he says.
A brighter future
In addition, TSAM is launching a new campaign around mobility specifically for previously disadvantaged children with lower-limb amputations. Leading up to the Easter holidays, TSAM will use its #DriveBetter campaign to encourage all Toyota and Lexus drivers who use the Toyota Connect feature to get good scores. The manufacturer will donate R1 000 for every 100 points achieved through good driving via the Toyota Connect feature.
All proceeds will go to Jumping Kids, a non-profit organisation that provides access to lower-limb prosthetic solutions to children.