Total fund：262,312.44 gbp
I have written these blog posts from some amazing places over the past five months as Xuelin and I have made our way from Buenos Aires to Rio, but I have a confession–this is my favourite–home. Well to be accurate just around the corner from home in Starbucks, Villiers Street, Westminster, London. I love where I live. I walk/travel around the world but there is no place like home. For me London is the greatest city on the planet and I feel enormously privileged to live and work here.
One of the great advantages of jet lag this time is that Xuelin and I have been able to stay up to 2AM and 3AM in the morning to watch all the sport from Rio 2016. The Olympics & Paralympics are sporting occasions like no other because of the variety of sports on offer–when else can you channel surf between live badminton, to dressage, to swimming, table tennis, gymnastics, rugby and canoeing. The BBC coverage has been brilliant with experts on hand to guide you through what is happening.
So the first point, ICYMI (in case you missed it) is that Xuelin and I are so happy to be home safely, enjoying not having to plan a 30-40km walking route, dodging Brazilian truck drivers, finding accommodation at the end of it, being able to call friends and family for free instead of £1.79 per minute. Perhaps most of all enjoying being able to understand the language and to be understood.
All this said, it has been an amazing week to look back on:
A week ago Xuelin and I had one of the greatest honours of our lives when Xuelin was invited by the president of the International Olympic Committee personally to carry the Olympic torch for 120 metres. Yes, it may have been a last minute gap in a deserted stretch of the route–though one that was quickly and wonderfully filled by friends and supporters from the Overseas Chinese community in Brazil. Yes, it may have only lasted for twenty seconds. Yes, it was an honour shared with at least 12,000 other people, but the honour of carrying the Olympic flame on its way from the Temple of Herra in Olympia to Rio is something we will never forget. It was a fitting honour for Xuelin who has selflessly supported me every step of the way from Olympia, Greece to London in 2012 for the Olympic truce and did it all again from Buenos Aires to Rio for the Olympic truce and UNICEF.
Nothing could top that experience of the torch relay but the Opening Ceremony came very close. I was so worried about getting caught up in traffic and crowds that we arrived in the stadium three hours before the event started. For the first hour it was as if we sat in our seats virtually by ourselves trying to make an expensive carton of popcorn last for the next six hours, but this was a show we were going to savour every single moment of and there were plenty of moments to come. It was an extraordinary evening and I will never forget the standing ovation that Team Refugee received from the vast crowd as they entered the stadium. I felt so proud for Brazil and particularly for Rio which has had to put up with more of the doom-merchants predicting chaos than any Games since Athens. When Carlos Nuzman, Chairman of the Organising Committee said in Portuguese (with English translation on the screen), ‘When they doubted us we never doubted ourselves’ the whole stadium erupted into cheers and air punches, ourselves included.
It was so true of the Rio Olympics & Paralympics especially but it is a sentiment that anyone who has ever succeeded at anything in life will know to be true. It reminded me of the truth is that whenever you set off in a different direction people will try and tell you you’ll never make it, but you need to remember this is not because they are worried you might fail, it is because they are worried you might actually succeed. In fairness Xuelin and I have had less people saying we would never make it this time, perhaps because we had shown we could complete similar challenges four times before, though the reality is that this walk came closer to failing two weeks after it started than has ever been the case before. Whilst I was drowning in self-doubt in, Xuelin threw me a lifebelt of love: http://www.walkforpeace.eu/day-13-18-april-reality-bites-but-love-kisses/ It was for me the stand out moment of the walk.
So, it will not be a surprise that my thanks for this walk go first and foremost to Xuelin not just for her emotional and practical support but for paying all of our costs for the walk enabling 100% of funds to go to UNICEF, but there are so many others who have contributed also–it is impossible to name them all but I name some as a representative sample:
The over 1000 individuals and companies who have contributed to our fundraising for UNICEF’s work with children in danger around the world enabling Xuelin to raise over £250,000.
Our team of translators who because of the great time differences between South America and China and the UK would work late nights and early mornings to translate these ramblings from faltering English into flowing Mandarin. Xuelin’s son Harry who was a great help with editing and posting videos on YouTube despite revising for his A level exams.
The Overseas Chinese Community especially in Sao Paulo Brazil and London for their many, many acts of practical support.
For my Brazil based son Alex and his girlfriend Vivi who came out to help us during a difficult 10 day stage and helped translate for us by phone many times.
My mum & dad, and brother David, son Matt who would double the readership of these blogs in English each day by clicking on them and sending encouraging messages.
Friends like back at Westminster Gary Streeter and Nigel Double who would send regular messages of support and encouragement.
To Ambassador Eduardo dos Santos, the Brazilian Ambassador in London for arranging meetings and advising on routes. To the British consulates in Rio and Belo Horizonte and the British Embassy in Monetvideo. To the Office of Wilfried Lemke, UN Special Adviser on Sport for Development & Peace in Geneva. To China House in Rio. To IOC president Thomas Bach. To Luciana Nunes, Olympic truce co-ordinator for Rio 2016.
To UNICEF UK and our contact person Michelle Chan for help and guidance before during and after the walk.
There are so many more and we are grateful to them all including those you who honour us by reading these blog postings in English and Mandarin.
I think that’s it for this year except to say that our walk was of course to draw attention to the Olympic truce through which signatories seek to set aside differences and work for reconciliation for the period seven days before the Olympic Games until seven days after the closing of the Paralympic Games. The Rio Olympic truce was signed by 180 countries at the United Nations General Assembly in October last year. Looking at our tv screens and events in Syria, Ukraine, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, Thailand, North Korea and France we might wonder what that means in reality.
It is a fair point but just because some people choose not to live up to their international obligations or rise above their tribal differences is not a reason to lower the bar but rather to encourage those who fall short to reach higher. That the world is a better place for the Olympics & Paralympics and the truce that transcends them. That peace and reconciliation was not just part of the ancient Olympic Games of 3000 years ago, it was their entire purpose and point. That ultimately peace is possible it just requires much more courage than war on the part of participants to achieve it. The type of courage, desire, single-minded purpose and ambition we witness everyday through the lives of our Olympians and Paralympians.