A Chinese farmer claims he spent two years riding nearly 40,000 miles (60,000 kilometres) through 16 countries on a rickshaw to reach London in time for the Olympic Games, the BBC reported Thursday.
Chen Guanming, 57, said his goal was to “spread the Olympic spirit” on his epic quest through war zones, mountains, floods, and extreme temperatures which took him to countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran.
He was inspired to make the journey while watching London mayor Boris Johnson accept the Olympic flag from inside the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing during the 2008 closing ceremonies, he told the BBC.
Video footage of Chen shows him displaying a passport filled with visas allowing him entry to various countries along the route.
He told the broadcaster he had to wring sweat out of his clothes in Malaysia, Vietnam, and Thailand, where he was also caught up in deadly floods.
When he was refused a visa to Myanmar, he simply backtracked and cycled to the mountains of Tibet instead.
On reaching Turkey via Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, he found himself snowed in for four days.
Chen finally arrived in London on July 6, where British businessman John Beeston — who speaks some Mandarin — stumbled across him on Lower Regent Street looking “completely lost and downhearted”.
Beeston said the rickshaw — which Chen has decorated with mementoes of his journey — caught his eye, and when he spoke to the man in Mandarin, he “burst into life”.
“London is especially beautiful,” Chen told the BBC.
“I wanted to come here because I wanted the whole world to support the Olympics and be part of it.”
Beeston told the BBC that Chen’s story was “like telling people that a Martian has landed in the garden.”
But he added: “What he’s done isn’t dissimilar to what Marco Polo did and the Italians named an airport after him.”
It is not clear exactly where Chen measured the start of his journey from, although the direct distance from Beijing to London is approximately 5,000 miles.