Chinese Olympics ‘ambassador’ visits Riyadh

Cao Da Fo sees himself as a promoter of goodwill and cultural exchange. (AN photo)
Updated 16 January 2019

Chinese Olympics ‘ambassador’ visits Riyadh

  • Cao Da Fo has visited 194 countries for the promotion of 2022 Winter Olympic Games
  • Beijing will become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics

RIYADH: A Beijing-based volunteer traveled to Riyadh last week as part of his mission to visit every country in the world and promote the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, which are being held in the Chinese capital.

Cao Da Fo has visited 194 countries, with 39 places left on his itinerary before he heads home to his wife and four children. 

He was at the South Pole before coming to Saudi Arabia, where he spent three days in Riyadh. 

Cao spoke warmly of the reception he has received on his travels, booking a flight to the Kingdom the day after his visa was confirmed by the embassy in Beijing. 

“Many of the people of the countries I have visited so far have been very welcoming and generous to me, offering assistance, food and water,” he told Arab News.

The longest period he has been away from home is 150 days, he added.

Cao started his round the world tour in 1999 to promote China’s goal of hosting the Winter Olympics in 2002.

The bid failed but Cao continued championing China as a host for the event. He sold off properties to finance the tour and has spent around $1.5 million on his mission. 

“It will give a good name to my homeland; it’s for the love of my country,” he said, when asked what inspired him to travel the world. “Since I became so involved in the Olympics, I no longer strive for material things.”

His trips to other countries show him posing for photos with locals and holding a colorful flag that features the sporting event’s famous five rings.

He said the Summer Olympics of 2008 changed Beijing forever. 

“When I was little, I didn’t even dream that this could happen, that the subway could run so near my home, that China could attain more worldly knowledge, that we could appear more international,” he has said in previous interviews.

Cao also sees himself as a promoter of goodwill and cultural exchange.

“I feel like the Olympic torch is more like a spark of hope for the whole world.”

Beijing will become the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics. It was selected as the host city in July 2015.


Saudi tourism megaproject aims to turn the Red Sea green

Updated 20 October 2019

Saudi tourism megaproject aims to turn the Red Sea green

  • Development will protect endangered hawksbill turtle, while coral research could help save the Great Barrier Reef

RIYADH: Key ecological targets are driving Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea tourism megaproject, its leader has told Arab News.

The development will not only protect the habitat of the endangered hawksbill turtle, but could also save coral reefs that are dying elsewhere in the world, said Red Sea Development Company Chief Executive John Pagano.

The project is taking shape in a 28,000 square kilometer region of lagoons, archipelagos, canyons and volcanic geology between the small towns of Al-Wajh and Umluj on the Kingdom’s west coast.

One island, Al-Waqqadi, looked like the perfect tourism destination, but was discovered to be a breeding ground for the hawksbill. “In the end, we said we’re not going to develop it. It shows you can balance development and conservation,” Pagano said.

Scientists are also working to explain why the area’s coral reef system — fourth-largest in the world —  is thriving when others around the world are endangered.

“To the extent we solve that mystery, the ambition would be to export that to the rest of the world,” Pagano said. “Can we help save the Great Barrier Reef or the Caribbean coral that has been severely damaged?”

 

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