Jule Koch | Nov 14, 2013
Chen Guan Ming is passionately committed to three causes: promoting the Olympic spirit, world peace, and environmental protection, and he has lived out that commitment by traversing 140,000 kilometres over half the world almost completely by human power - riding or pulling his rickshaw in order to spread the message.
For most of his life, Chen was a rice farmer in China, but when Beijing won the bid for the 2008 Olympics, he was so inspired that he felt he had to do something to promote the event. All he had was his rickshaw, so in 2001 he left his hometown and by the time he arrived in Beijing in 2008, he had travelled 90,000 kilometres all over China, visiting over 1700 towns.
Then a new dream was born – to reach London in time for the 2012 Olympics. So again he set out on his rickshaw.
The route Chen took is posted at www.chenolympicrickshaw.com and it is astounding. He deliberately chose a longer route to bring inspiration to as many countries as possible. He first headed through Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and he rode through Thailand during the severe floods. After an already long journey he was turned away by Singapore and later by Myanmar, but instead of being discouraged he just chose another route each time. He rode through some of the world's most difficult regions including Afghanistan, Iran and the Himalayas. He almost froze to death in Turkey, but he made it, arriving in London on July 9, 2012.
However, because he doesn’t speak English, he couldn’t tell anyone his story when he got there. By chance he met a man named John Beeston, who, after learning about the journey, alerted the media to his presence.
Chen is now 58 and after a brief return to China, he embarked on a new dream – to travel to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics. With the help of supporters, who were able to secure shipping for his rickshaw and a flight for him, he arrived in Canada to begin his next epic journey.
Chen left Halifax on September 19 and passed through Sharbot Lake on November 9, but he isn’t headed south yet; he’s headed to Vancouver first. Compared to the 140,000 kilometres he’s already travelled, the 6122 kilometres to Vancouver doesn't seem like much – except for the Canadian winter, which makes us hardy Canucks tremble for him.
Chen doesn’t seem to accept hosting. When I took his picture on Highway 7, I asked by gestures about sleeping. He indicated his old sleeping bag and motioned that he draws the curtains around the seat of the rickshaw. It was a raw day, when most of us seek the comfort of a home fire and I asked if he was cold. He laughed and shook his head. Then he busied himself repairing the rickshaw chain.
There is a well-known saying about angels fearing to tread. I would like to re-coin it as "Innocents rush in where angels fear to go". We certainly wish this amazing man safety and success in his inspirational journey, which is a testament to his courage, strength, endurance and idealism, but also to the kindness of the people he has met on his journey. Chen’s supporters in Canada have created a website and facebook page for him. Anyone who would like more information or to donate to the journey, please visit chenguanming.com/news/default.html or facebook.com/guanming.chen.58
(Notes: Because of the language barrier we could not interview Mr. Chen, so this article is gleaned from other articles on the internet. However, Sheila Spanchak of Maberly speaks Mandarin and when she and her husband Simon visited Chen on the highway, he told her that he will take a break from his travels during the worst of the winter weather)