comments iconDay 109 (23 July): Our own ‘Torch relay’ from Hangzhou to Brazil


Daily distance:40.30 km/25.10 mi

Total distance:2894.18 km/1798.09 mi

Daily fund:0.00 gbp+1,227.15 cny

Total fund:52,454.46 gbp+175,535.68 cny

After a rest day and another peperoni pizza at Sabor & Lenha in Barra Mansa it is time to hit the road again. It is a long stretch down to Pirai so an early start also. The road was twisting and turning and up and down so what seemed like a long trek on the road (40.3km/25.1mls) wasn’t reflected in distance on the map.


We were blessed with a very nice small hotel for the evening: Casa do Manaquinho in the centre of Pirai. Another great Xuelin ‘find’ not mentioned on the Internet. Over dinner we were discussing plans for the arrival into Rio next week and she told me the most amazing story about the backdrop which we hope to  erect at Parque Lage, (British House) in Rio for the Games. Let me try and recount what happened:


We were in contact with Marcelo Tavela at the British Consulate in Rio and he indicated that it might be possible for us to use British House for the arrival ceremony. It was a fantastic suggestion as it is just below (3km below) the Statue of the Christ which is our finishing point for the walk. Xuelin suggested that we should have a backdrop to use to explain the walk and for photos. I expressed reservations as I had absolutely no idea how this might be possible to arrange at such short notice.


Xuelin posted the idea on her WeChat Group and asked if anyone had any contacts who might be able to help. Qiu Jian ( a classmate of Xuelin’s from middle school) responded introduced Vito Hangzhou PR. Xuelin gave them the ideas and Wang Junfang worked up the deign of the backdrop. Neither Xuelin nor Wang Junfang slept that night as they were exchanging ideas and drafts for the backdrop. They agreed the backdrop in the early hours and it was sent to be printed in Shanghai. As is often the case when people are working late, in the morning they discovered a small error after the backdrop had been printed. They needed to go through the whole process again to correct.


So now we have a backdrop, re-printed but it is in Shanghai not Rio. So next question is how do we get it here in time for the finishing ceremony. Courier companies were out fortunately as they were incredibly expensive, so Xuelin went back to her WeChat group to see if there was anyone coming this way who might be willing to bring the backdrop and the bulky supporting screen.

Zhang Wei , a Chinese community leader in Brazil whom we had met said that he knew the captain of the China Airlines flight which went between Beijing and Sao Paulo. He contacted Wang Jingshui, the captain who agreed to help. The problem was that the backdrop and frame needed to be delivered to Hangzhou from Shanghai to make the connecting flight.


Back to the WeChat Group and Xuelin asks if anyone might be able to bring the backdrop and frame from Hangzhou to Beijing. Xuelin contacted Vice Secretary  General Li of Zhejiang Provincial Government whether he may be able to help.

He suggested that the Lu Lin, deputy director of the Sports Bureau in Zhejiang Province, himself an Olympic doubles table tennis champion who was planning to go to Beijing to send off  to Rio Zhan Xugang, who is a famous weightlifting Olympic Champion having won Gold twice.


Xuelin had met the deputy director and Zhan Xugang in London in 2012 when they attended the Games when celebrating the success of Zhejiang athletes.


So Saturday is a very busy day. The designer in Hangzhou received the printed package from Shanghai. Checked that there was nothing missing and packed them well. Then Xuelin’s former classmate Mr Qiu volunteered to pick up from their office to drive an hour to the airport to meet the deputy director of the sports bureau.


The flight Mr Lu took from Hangzhou to Beijing was delayed for an hour and he was worried he may not have enough time to meet Mr Zhan who is flighting with Air China flight to Sao Paulo. When he finally arrived in Beijing, Captain Wang from Air China went to the airport to meet him and collect the backdrop. At every stage of the journey the package was opened and the contents rigorously inspected by officials. It was then passed to Zhan Xugang who is the weightlifting champion who had an extra baggage allowance because of the weightlifting competition.


The flight took off on time and began its 35 hour flight to Sao Paulo. When it arrives in Sao Paulo tomorrow Zhang Wei in Sao Paulo will meet Zhang Xugang and collect the backdrop and arrange fro it to be delivered to Park Lage, Rio on Thursday 28 July to enable it to be erected in time for the finishing ceremony on Friday 29 July.


On the box the PR company had printed the picture of the backdrop and the slogan that this was China’s part in the great torch relay for Rio 2016.

As I sat there I was amazed at the complexity but also the willingness of people to participate in such an endeavour. I think I would have been tempted to say ‘why bother?’ at the outset, but they did bother and have pulled off an amazing feat. I can’t think of any country in the world other than China that would be willing to undertake such an endeavour in a matter of a few days for no payment other than helping a charity event. This is what makes China the ‘can do’ capital of the world. Whilst some people would be saying it was too difficult and others being scared that there were too many risks for them, they just trusted people, did the right checks and did it all because they believed in the cause. In my books they deserve a Gold medal just for that.