How the Toyotas that accompanied the Olympic flame have changed, and with them the Japanese car industry

Throughout its history, the Olympic Torch Relay ceremony has experienced many interesting and curious events. The flame was lit at the birthplace of the gods in the Greek Olympia, it was blown out by the wind, flew on a plane, swam under water, was transmitted as a radio signal, repeated the route of Christopher Columbus, but, as it turned out, every Japanese Olympics, starting from Tokyo in 1964 and ending with Sapporo and Nagano, was accompanied by Toyota. And it all started with the Crown luxury sedans, and may end up with a flying car and autopilot.


The 1964 branded booklet with the Olympic symbols, the Toyota Crown sedan and, of course, the European-looking model people – this is still valued in Japanese advertising. In ten years, the Toyota really will be in demand even in the USA, but the reason for that will be the fuel crisis and the economy of Japanese small cars.


And here’s the same car during the relay race before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The Crown was well-equipped, and an optional 6-cylinder engine and 2-speed automatic was available! By the way, it was the first Toyota to be seen in Europe – the first to be sold was by a Danish dealer, who saw the Crown at the Tokyo Motor Show.

Another photo from that relay race and already other Toyotas. Riding in front of the Toyota Crown convoy are the Crown Eight premium sedans, the hot novelties of 1964. Essentially, these were extended and extended Crowns that were equipped with V-8s. The car was designed to displace American cars from the fleets of big Japanese corporations and show the world that the Japanese could now make luxury sedans.

At the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo, the fire has already been accompanied by a Land Cruiser 50 in the characteristic paint scheme. The Japanese car industry was on the rise and the “fifty” was developed primarily for the US market, where it received the nickname “moose” for its design.


During the relay, three Land Cruisers escorted the flame, and Crown sedans and Coaster buses were used as support vehicles. The Olympics were supposed to show the world that Japan had recovered and changed after World War II. For the Japanese automobile industry, it was a golden age of prosperity.

And the results of this boom can be judged on the next Olympics, which happened 26 years after Sapporo. The 1998 relay before the Nagano Olympics featured a Toyota Prius and a Harrier. The first was a strange and exotic sedan with a hybrid engine that sold 17,000 cars a year, but within ten years had monopolized the hybrid market. The second was an unusual-looking crossover, which very soon became known as the Lexus RX.


Rumor has it that even the first flying car Skydrive can take part in ceremony of lighting of the fire at the Olympic Games in Tokyo 2020 – the project which actively supports Toyota. In the meantime, it has been officially confirmed that autonomous e-Palette booths will serve guests and athletes in the Olympic village, and Olympic staff will use Toyota i-ROAD tricycles – for example, they will be used to drive security guards. And how did everything start quietly in the sixties?

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