Today’s Distance : 6.10 km / 3.80 miles
Total Distance：3025.88 km / 1879.99 miles
Today’s Donations：£ 245.00＋ ¥ 1127.00
Total Donations：£ 262,312.44
Our final day was the greatest logistical challenge of the entire walk. I had completed a longer than expected stretch of the walk from the Maracanã to Parque Lage where the finishing ceremony would take place the evening before. We then had to make our way out to Barra around 20KM from the main city to be ready for the next day when we had been granted the honour of meeting Thomas Bach, President of the International Olympic Committee on the day that the UN Olympic truce came into effect for the Rio Games.
We, or I should say, Xuelin, splashed out on booking us in at the amazing Windsor Marapendi Hotel which is one of the main hotels for officials. This would mean we would not have to take risks with travelling out of the city or parking the car for the meeting with Thomas Bach. We had been scheduled 2-3 minutes for the meeting and we knew that if we weren’t there waiting 15 minutes before then our opportunity would be lost. By staying in the same hotel we would be sure to be on time. We both thoroughly enjoyed our night of beach front luxury looking at enormous waves breaking on the beach in front of our hotel room window.
The International Olympic Committee is like a Rolls Royce engine. Nothing is left to chance. Everything must be exactly where it should be when it should be. We were sat in the waiting room to the president’s office at 15 minutes exactly before the scheduled meeting. We were offered water from the fridge. The assistant handed us each a bottle and then called in one of the hotel staff to ask them turn the temperature up one or two degrees as it was too cold. It was an example of attention to detail which pervades the organisation.
We were shown into the meeting room with a British official Olympic photographer, Ian Jones and there was a quick handshake for the cameras. Thomas Bach had already sent a warm letter of good wishes ahead of the walk and he wanted to know in detail how the walk had gone. Buenos Aires, our start point, was a special place for him as he had won a World Championship in fencing there in 1977 and was elected president of the IOC there in 2013. We had a great conversation about the Olympic truce and its potential for the future, especially Tokyo 2020. We know busy he is and that he would take time out to spend time with us was an amazing way to mark the start of our final day.
From there we needed to dash back into Rio and Parque Lage for the Finishing Ceremony. Fortunately there were no major delays but the 20km journey still took one and a half hours to complete. We arrived at Parque Large to find Marcelo Tavela from the British Consulate already there preparing the best location. We arrived with Xuelin’s friends from the Chinese community who had driven up from Sao Paulo that morning with the backdrop. Then our good friends Yin Chu Ping and Yin Xiao Min brothers who welcomed in Rio four months ago and have helped and advised us throughout they even brought flowers from an event they had planned for us the night before, but which sadly we weren’t able to make.
It was a spectacular setting with British House as the backdrop and the Statue of Christ the Redeemer high above us. Xuelin set to work preparing the backdrop and positioning it for the ceremony. I undertook a couple of interviews for CCTV and also for Israel Igualate from Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s leading daily newspaper. These interviews were important because we were able to begin to outline plans for a Walk for Truce 2020 for the Tokyo Games, perhaps from Beijing. The idea seemed to be very well received.
Matt Woods Deputy British Consular General in Rio was host of the proceedings and invited me to say a few words. I reserved them to pay tribute to Xuelin without whose amazing support I would never have made it out of Buenos Aires never mind finished in Rio and without whom we certainly would not have raised £250,000 for the work of UNICEF. Next the Deputy Chinese Consul General, Li Yan Jun spoke about the importance of the truce to Chinese people and also the importance of the walk referencing the kind remarks of president Xi Jin Ping which he made about our walk last year in a speech to the UK parliament.
An unexpected but welcome last minute addition was a lady from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brazil who had travelled to hand over a personal letter from Michel Termer, president of Brazil which had been signed that morning–the day of the truce. It was a beautiful and warmly worded letter which she kindly read out to the small group of friends who had gathered together for the ceremony. Because it was unexpected I didn’t even get to find out her name.
Next Ambassador Laudamar from the Mayor’s Office arrived with a letter from Eduardo Paes, Mayor of the City of Rio de Janeiro. The event which had been planned for about 30 minutes–those who know me know also that I do not like long speeches or events but there was almost a party atmosphere developing so we went with it.
Finally, the most important part of the event which was to present a copy of a cheque made payable to UNICEF for £250,000 by Xuelin to Immaculada Prieta from UNICEF who also spoke about the important work Unicef is doing here in Brazil. The money raised and the work that it will enable UNCEF to do with children in danger is the most important and lasting legacy of the walk.
Our good friend Pedro Menezes of the Brazilian Ministry Foreign Affairs who had been helping us plan routes since before the walk had commenced was there with some park rangers from the Tijuca National Park and they were going to escort us up through the forest to our final destination, the Statue of Christ the Redeemer.
I am very conscious that I am now 1000 words in and our wonder team of translators have been so fantastic over the past 115 day don’t want to test their patience further on the final few days. I think I will pick up that story tomorrow and end for now with this reflection on an amazing final day. Thank all of those who made it possible and leave the details of the final 3km of the walk for tomorrow