by Selina Khoo
It was an honour and privilege to be invited to speak at the BP CEO Dialogue Session 2018 on “Paralympic Movement & It’s Impact on Business” in Singapore. I was humbled to share the stage with Mr. Andrew Parsons, President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and Mr. Terry Yuen, Country President of BP Singapore. When Mr. Kevin Wong, President of the Singapore National Paralympic Committee, approached me to share my research at the Dialogue, there was no way I could say no. The aim of the Dialogue was to provide opportunities for Singapore-based companies to find out more about the Paralympics and ways to partner with the Paralympic movement in Singapore and abroad.
It was a successful event that was useful to corporate participants who had the opportunity to listen to the perspective of the IPC as well as from an International Partner of the IPC. BP has been supporting the Paralympics since 2008 and has extended their partnership to the end of 2020. In addition to being an International Partner of the IPC, BP also supports National Paralympic Committees (including Angola, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Georgia, Great Britain, Singapore, Trinidad & Tobago, UAE and USA).
This partnership reflect the alignment of values between BP and the Paralympic movement. BP has partnered with the Singapore National Paralympic Committee since 2015 to promote the Paralympic Movement in the country. In addition to conducting joint events, BP Singapore also engages athletes with a disability to promote disability sport among BP employees.
There are many advantages to participation in sport, and it plays an important role in modern society. There is voluminous literature on the benefits to the individual and society. Individuals can benefit from an array of physical, psychological, and emotional benefits for good health and well-being.
Sport also brings opportunities for group participation, social contact, and group acceptance. It also contributes to social wellness and social integration. And this is especially important in multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious countries like Malaysia and Singapore. For persons with disabilities, there are additional benefits of inclusion. Participation in sports not only challenges what society thinks about disability but also how persons with disabilities perceive themselves and their ability.
Companies can support disability sport either through philanthropy, sponsorship, or personnel engagement. Examples of philanthropy include making donations (either financial, in-kind or equipment), raising money for charitable purposes, working specifically with sports charities, and building new facilities. Companies can sponsor competitions or events, a team or an individual, or work closely with a governing body. Employees too can play a role either by raising money or volunteering at sports organisations or events.
Japan has been successful in engaging companies to support disability sport, especially after Tokyo was named as host of the 2020 Paralympic Games. Japanese companies were keen to employ Paralympic athletes because of their mental toughness, discipline, and perseverance.
Paralympic skier Taiki Morii is employed at Toyota and targeted a gold medal at the 2018 Paralympic Games. He knew that his sit-ski has to be upgraded in order to improve his time. Team Morii, a group of top engineers from Toyota together with Nissin Medical Industries, rose to the challenge and developed a new sit-ski for Morii’s bid for gold.
This is the embodiment of Toyota’s “Start Your Impossible” marketing campaign which highlights the company’s goal to provide freedom of mobility for all. The campaign marks Toyota’s commitment to support the creation of a more inclusive and sustainable society.
Although Morii did not achieve his dream of a gold medal, he inspired those around him. This is what Akio Toyoda, President of Toyota Motor Corporation had to say: “We have been fascinated by the athlete Taiki Morii, and have been touched by your passion for the Gold; you have allowed us to project our dreams onto your challenge, and for this, we are grateful. You and your supporting team have embodied how we all feel towards our impossible, and we will follow your example to keep trying with all our passion and determination.”
Airline company ANA also supports inclusivity. Their partnership with Japan Blind Football Association has resulted in the company’s understanding about disability, including how to make the airline more accessible for everyone.
Athletes with disabilities are role models and are featured in advertisements, for example, swimmer Takuro Fujita in an NTT advertisement, Mei Ichinose in a Toyota advertisement, and wheelchair basketball in a JAL advertisement. Companies are also developing products for athletes with disabilities. For example, casual wear company Uniqlo has signed an endorsement deal with wheelchair tennis player Shingo Kuneida and developed functional clothing for the sport.
Companies can get a variety of benefits by supporting disability sports. Support from companies allow more persons with disabilities to participate in sports. In return, companies get to opportunity to be affiliated to a movement which promotes equality. There are benefits of partnership between companies and disability sport both to the individual and society.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Selina Khoo is the Deputy Director (Postgraduate and Research) at the Sports Centre, Univeristy of Malaya.