I Will Fly the Olympic Flag on the Highest Peaks of the Seven Continents and at the North and South Poles

By Jin Fei Bao

As the Beijing Olympics draws nearer and nearer, 1,300 million Chinese people are looking forward to August 8, 2008, the opening day, and everyone is greeting the grand event in their own way. Over the past two years I have been pursuing the Olympic Spirit. I have carried the Olympic Flag to the highest peaks of the seven continents and the North and South Poles. These have been my Olympic years with a historic opportunity to challenge myself to be “faster, higher, stronger.”

The Spirit of the Olympics and the Spirit of China

If, on July 13, 2001, Mr. Samaranch, former president of the International Olympic Committee had not announced that Beijing was to be the host city of the 2008 Olympic Games, then the coming of 2008 would have been as the usual years, passing as an annual ring in the history of China. However, with the voice of Mr. Samaranch, 2008 has been endowed with dramatic significance for China. On August 8, 2008, Beijing will raise the five-ring Olympic flag, welcoming the Olympic Games. This is the first time that China has hosted the Olympics. It will be a mirror through which the world will see the spirit of the Olympics and the spirit of China.

What is the Olympic spirit? What is the spirit of China? As a common Chinese person I have adopted the spirit of “faster, higher stronger” to mean self-confidence, self-reliance and self-esteem. This spirit is not just hollow words but actions. Only few have the opportunity to win the gold and silver medals, but the great majority of common working people can adopt the spirit and create more opportunity in their everyday working lives.

My 9 extreme spots expedition arose from this kind of spirit. Although only a few Chinese had completed the “7 + 2” expedition, I thought that to attempt it would seem ordinary, so I decided to try for a national record by completing the expedition in the shortest period of time – one and a half years -- and I decided to carry the 2008 Olympic flag to these extreme spots.

I began with Mt. Everest in May 2006, and even though it was very difficult, my success gave me more confidence and courage. Following Mt. Everest I reached the summit of Kilimanjaro, the highest of Africa in October 2006; reached the summit of Mt. Vinson, highest peak in Antarctic in December 2006; trekked to the South Pole on June 1, 2007; trekked to the North Pole in April 2007; reached the summit of Mt. Kosciuszko, highest in Australia in May 2007; reached the summit of Mt. McKinley, highest peak of North America in June 2007; reached the summit of Elbrus, highest peak of Europe in August 2007; reached the summit of Mt. Carstensz Pyramid, highest of Oceania in September 2007 (there is a debate as to whether Mt. Kosciuszko or Mt. Carstensz is the highest peak in Oceania, so I climbed them both). This December I’ll fly to Argentina to make my second attempt to climb Mt. Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America (in March 2007 I made it within one-hundred meters of the summit when turned back by the onset of the first winter blizzard).

A nation needs self-reliance, self-esteem and self-confidence; similarly, a person needs these attitudes. Especially during my climb of Mt. Everest and my treks to the North and South Poles, I needed to draw deeply from these attitudes. The 8844-meter-high Everest takes the climber into thin air, extreme cold and a special kind of loneliness. During the final accent I just wanted to go to sleep and I had to keep telling myself, “Don’t give up; keep climbing.” Near the summit, at the 10-meter “China Ladder,” I found myself immobile, unable to go up or down. Some team members said, “Stop, go back” and even the guide said “Give up and get down.” But I thought, “What is the purpose of coming here? Isn’t it for reaching the summit? I will make it!” This strong faith gave me the power I needed. I exerted all my strength, and in a minute, I stood on the summit of the world.

During the trek to the South Pole, the storm, the mist and the low temperature made the world seem like chaos. We couldn’t see any reference. There was nothing but endless white. Every day we walked more than ten kilometers dragging the 50-kilo sledges. We saw no objects; we could see no end. Again, I had to draw deeply upon my inner-strength and the Olympic Spirit.

The North Pole is different from South Pole, because the sea ice on the Arctic Ocean has been flowing, scattering and thawing. The Arctic is on a state of flowing ice, not like South Pole, which is relatively flat with accumulated ice thickness of thousands of meters after several million years. Therefore, every day in trekking to the North Pole, we had to encounter dangerous ice cracks and experience life “on thin ice”. Often the wind was blowing against us and we would drift in the contrary direction. Also the skiing was much more difficult than it in the Antarctic. We had to learn cross-obstruction skiing techniques. It was very difficult crossing from one ice-flow to another. No skiing techniques learned in the South Pole could apply here, and we had to start from zero.

Among the people trekking to North Pole and South Pole, I was the only Chinese. At that moment did I felt more clearly than ever, “I am Chinese and I represent China!” This feeling helped me to endure the hardships.

Usually doves of peace are released at the opening of every Olympic Games to symbolize peace and harmony in the world. Harmony may be the best interface between the Olympics and Chinese civilization. There is a profound, rich and deep tradition of harmony in Chinese civilization. China may help bring this tradition to the Olympics and to the world.

Harmony relates to the connection between human beings and nature. During my adventures I have become deeply aware of this connection. People like to use the word “conquer” to describe the success of an adventure. However, during my adventures I have come to the conclusion that nature is not something human beings can conquer. We must learn to protect and live with nature and we find inner-peace in nature not in the tall buildings of our busy cities.

My first visit to the Mt. Everest base camp was devoted to cleaning up the tons of trash that had been left by previous climbers. On all of my climbs I pick up the trash that has been left by others. After my successful climb of Everest I led a campaign to save the red-beaked seagulls of Kunming. If everyone can adopt these attitudes it will help solve our environmental problems.

Harmony also relates to relations between people. All of my “7 + 2” adventures have been shared with peoples of other nations. In these challenges people must help each other. When you are tired and at the edge of falling, a warm hand can save your life; when you are thirsty, a cup of water handed to you by a team member may inspire you for a lifetime. These helpmates become lifetime treasures.

The Olympic Games can create these relationships -- between individuals and between nations. The 2008 Beijing Olympics will infuse China with world spirit and the world will learn from the spirit of China. The Olympic Games will come and be over; hopefully, the spirit will grow forever.