Text by Liu Haile Photographs by Qiu Dali
As a starter gun emitted its thunderous explosion, 86 cyclists in tight-fitting apparel set off from the Bird’s Nest, the primary venue of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with eyes towards London, the host city of the 2012 Olympics, intending to pedal through 13 countries across Asia and Europe.
On April 1, 2012, the Departure Ceremony of the Beijing-Paris-London Cycling Expedition, jointly sponsored by China-EU Association, Beijing People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (BPAFFC), and Federation Fran?aise de Cyclotourisme, kicked off at Beijing Olympic Green. “After the successful organization of the Paris-Beijing Expedition that honored the 2008 Beijing Olympics, this year’s event aims to welcome the 2012 London Olympics and promote cultural and sporting communication between the two Olympic host cities,” explained Alain-Jean Tusseau, president of Association Amitie Euro-Chinoise.
The 86 cyclists were recruited via the internet from China, France, Canada, and Belgium. “They aren’t professional competitors,” revealed BPAFFC chairman Chen Haosu at the ceremony. “With an average age of 60, they will spend five months traversing 14,400 kilometers on bike until they reach their destination - London. They will bring Chinese goodwill to the London Olympics and spread the spirit of solidarity, friendship, participation, and dreams.”
Michel Galesi, a 62-year-old French cyclist, had never visited China before. He revealed that Beijing deeply impressed him, especially the Bird’s Nest’s modern, elegant architectural style. Along with cycling, he is also a mountaineering enthusiast. As a climber, he has conquered both the Alps and the Pyrenees. “I used to like riding alone,” Galesi recalled. “Every year I spend one or two months cycling through France or other European countries. This time, however, I’m riding with teammates. This is also the longest journey I’ve ever attempted, which is enabling us to cross through several different countries and learn about each culture along the way. Compared to traveling by car, cycling allows visitors to build closer relationships with native residents and meet other ethnic groups more easily.”