BEIJING (AFP) — Sun Dingguo rewarded himself with his 36th Olympic-themed tattoo after completing a 10-month journey across China, pedalling his rickshaw for the glory of the Beijing Games.
Sun, 30, one of China's so-called Olympic 'madmen', gave up his job last year to devote his entire life -- and his body -- to the Olympics.
"I dropped my job, I dropped all my dreams, I dropped the chance to get a girlfriend," he said, admiring the new 'One world, One dream' slogan etched on his stomach at a tattoo parlour in Beijing.
"I dropped everything but the promotion of the Olympic spirit with only one thought. I cannot have other thoughts. I must keep one thought in mind, or I cannot reach my goal."
Sun's tattoo mania began in July 2001 -- when China was awarded the Games -- and his body is now a walking billboard depicting the symbols of different sports, China's Olympic logo and 'Beijing 2008', among others.
Not content with that, Sun decided to leave his job as a rickshaw driver in east Zhejiang province last year and to pedal round several provinces with the aim of collecting thousands of signatures supporting the Games.
Sun is just one of a number of Chinese 'madmen' who have dropped everything to perform eye-catching stunts in the run-up to the August 8-24 Games.
One man decided to stick 2008 needles in his head, face, hands and chest to commemorate the Olympic Games, according to media reports.
Another set off from northwest Xinjiang province in August 2005 and has already walked 40,000 kilometres, going through every province in the country, and aiming to get to Beijing in July this year.
But unlike many others, Sun's sacrifice is permanent. While his hair, cut in five Olympic rings and dyed in the colours of the Games, will grow out, his 36 tattoos are indelible.
"As a common Chinese citizen, I want to transmit this feeling of joy, and to tell friends from all over the world what the Olympic spirit is," he said.
Setting off with just 200 yuan (30 dollars) in his pocket over 10 months ago, Sun pedalled through 45 cities in five provinces, filling 13 diary notebooks and collecting 300,000 signatures that he intends to present to the Beijing Olympic Organising Committee.
He relied on the kindness of strangers for food and water, and slept in a tiny, cramped space at the back of his rickshaw.
His family argued against the idea, saying he should settle down and get married, but Sun said his love of the Olympics took over.
"I want to train and test myself through hardship and diligence, and also to challenge myself. I think this is the Olympic spirit," he said.
As he cycled in Beijing, his colourful rickshaw, covered from wheel to roof with pictures of the Olympics, lists of businesses that helped him on the way, and a countdown to the Games, stopped bystanders in their tracks.
Sun's rap song that he made up along the way was performed with great relish to anyone who would listen.
"His culture is not very high but his wisdom is very high, it comes from the heart," said Yang Dali, one of the many who stopped to look at Sun's curious contraption in Beijing, before she started to cry.
Yang's reaction shows the almost spiritual reverence paid to the Olympics by most Chinese, who might have frowned upon a tattooed man rapping in the street in any other circumstance.
The Chinese take great pride in having been awarded the Olympic Games -- designed to showcase the country's rise to prominence on the international stage -- and any opposition to the event has been met with fierce criticism.
State propaganda has also fanned the flames of Olympic fervour, with constant reminders of the event on television, radio and in newspapers, which helps to understand why Sun and others like him have devoted themselves to the Games.
Sun now plans to hold a public signature ceremony in Beijing -- his last stop before he goes home after the Games.
"I may have to pay the price for this, it may cost my whole life and everything, but I don't regret doing this to support the Olympics," he said.
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »