Chinese farmer Chen Guanming rode his rickshaw over 60,000 kilometres to London.It isn't just athletes who have spent years preparing for the Olympics. For 57-year-old Chinese farmer Chen Guanming, it's taken over two years to get to London. Guanming left his village in May 2010 and arrived in London July 9 this year, cycling over 60,000 kilometres through 16 different countries in his rickshaw. He's faced everything from flooding in Thailand to snowstorms in Turkey, and has gone through mountains, war zones and temperatures of -30 degrees Celsius, sleeping in the back of his rickshaw the whole way. It's a remarkable story, and one that shows how reaching the Olympics can be an inspirational goal for more than just athletes.
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This isn't the first time Guanming has been inspired by the Olympics. Back in 2001 when China was awarded the 2008 Games, he cycled from his hometown of Erchen to Beijing and picked up trash along the way. He led an anti-littering crusade in advance of the 2008 Olympics, reportedly travelling through 1,764 cities and covering more than 90,000 kilometres, then spending three months picking up trash around Beijing ahead of and during the Games. Olympic authorities gave him a ticket to the closing ceremonies as a reward, and the handover of the Olympic flag to London mayor Boris Johnson inspired Guanming to go on with his journey and cycle all the way to London. He told the BBC that it's been a worthwhile trip:
"London is especially beautiful," he says.
"People are very friendly. They always show warmth towards me.
"When I go back to China I want to tell them how civilised the English are."
It's tough to imagine spending more than two years on the road, especially cycling, but Guanming has the passport stamps and pictures to back his story up. It's been an epic journey full of trials, though. After leaving China, he went through the heat and humidity of Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, where temperatures reached 38 degrees Celsius, and he also was caught in severe floods in Thailand. He was turned back at the border to Myanmar (formerly Burma), so he reversed course and wound his way through the mountains of Tibet, a remarkable task on a rickshaw with no gears. He's travelled across Asia and Europe, relying on small payments for courier services and donations from people inspired by his story, and now he's hoping to see Friday's Opening Ceremonies. Given the odds he's already overcome, don't bet against him finding a way in.
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