British lord starts trek for truce

Updated: 2016-04-11 06:02

By JI YE in Rio de Janeiro for China Daily(China Daily Latin America)

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British lord starts trek for truce

Former British Minister of State at the Home Office Lord Michael Bates (front right) and his wife Li Xuelin (left) start his 3,000-kilometer Walk for the Olympic Truce on April 6 in Buenos Aires. Provided to China Daily

Former British parliamentarian Michael Bates started his 3,000-kilometer Walk for the Olympic Truce from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro on April 6 to raise funds for UNICEF.

Lord Bates, 55, a member of the House of Lords, announced in March that he was setting out on a solo walk from Buenos Aires, the host city for the 2018 Youth Olympic Games, to Rio de Janeiro, host city of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The five-month journey is scheduled to finish on Aug 22, and will take him through four countries — Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil — with the goal of raising $250,000 for UNICEF. His wife Li Xuelin, a Chinese woman from East China's Zhejiang province, will assist him on his walk.

"If you want to make a difference in the world, do something, get out there, do some activity, get walking, stop complaining, and do something," Bates told China Daily as he set off on his journey.

Aside from raising funds for UNICEF, the purpose of the walk is to also raise awareness of the UN Olympic Truce, Bates added.

Prior to the walk, No 10 Downing Street announced Bates' resignation as minister of state at the Home Office.

British Prime Minister David Cameron wrote in a letter to Bates: "It must have been a very tough decision to decide to stand down — and a deeply personal one — but I understand completely your wish to pursue this venture and you do so with my warmest blessing.

"Your solo-walk from Buenos Aires to Rio de Janeiro sounds like a hugely rewarding initiative, and a fitting addition to your already impressive efforts for the London 2012 Olympic Truce," Cameron added.

"With your Walk for Peace, you are carrying the spirit of the Olympic Truce into a world that needs the values of tolerance, solidarity and peace more than ever before," Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, wrote in a letter to Bates.

Bates said he could not do his walk without the help of his wife, Li, who goes ahead of him to plan the way, stays behind to pay the bills and spends the rest of the time on the phone raising money for the charities they support.

Last year, with the help of his wife, Bates spent 71 days completing a 1,700-km walk from Beijing to Hangzhou, capital city of Zhejiang province, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the victory in the World Anti-Fascist War.

"I wish him a smooth journey and hope he reaches his destination safe and sound," Li said.

Bates said this Walk for the Olympic Truce was his seventh walk for charity.

The tradition of the Olympic Truce dates back to the 8th century BC, in ancient Greece, when wars were suspended for three months surrounding the games so that athletes and spectators could travel safely to the host city and return home.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) revived the ancient concept of the Olympic Truce with the view to protecting, as far as possible, the interests of the athletes and sport in general, and to encourage searching for peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the conflicts around the world.

"My aim of this walk is to encourage the countries who signed the 2016 Olympic Truce Resolution at the UN General Assembly to do just one thing to implement its precepts," Bates said.

"The resolution calls upon all member states of the UN to take concrete action at local, national, regional and international levels to promote and strengthen the culture of peace based on the spirit of the Olympic Truce and to use sport as a tool to promote peace, dialogue and reconciliation in areas of conflict during and beyond the period of the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

Bates admitted that he had not been a natural outdoors type in the past and loved finishing his days with a beer. His son, he said, always laughed at his beer belly, but he told his son that if you have a dream, it's never too late to pursue it.