THE GREAT MILLENNIUM PEACE RIDE (GMPR) started in Seattle, USA, on 6 August 1998 on the 53-rd anniversary of Hiroshima Memorial.
To celebrate the new millennium and draw people's attention to the need
to live in peace with each other and in harmony with nature, an
international group of cyclists decided to cross the four continents in
513 days and meet the first day of the year 2000 in Japan, Hiroshima.
The idea of the Peace ride was initiated in Greece, Athens.
The intention was to select 500 cyclists representing the most of the
world countries and make a mini globe. It also has been agreed that
media and television will regularly report on the event. However the
organisers failed to gather the group nor they received the relevant
financing. To that end, the Lithuanian team took over the organisation
and decided to change the policy - the event became open and welcomed
anyone able to cover its own expenses. The Lithuanian team also took a
40 meters long Peace banner symbolically representing the
distance around the world in which the President of Lithuania signed -
"Take the greetings of the Lithuanian people to the whole world".
The route of the Peace Ride went through the following 45 countries of the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia - USA,
Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rika,
Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ghana, Ivory Coast,
Guinea, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Spain, France, Belgium, the
Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Byelorussia, Ukraine,
Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Greece, Israel, Jordan,
Syria, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Myanmar, Laos, China, Japan.
On the way the peace riders
encountered a lot of bureucratic barriers, visa problems and various
permissions to be obtained. They also faced lots of natural obstacles -
desserts, mountains, the jungle, heavy rainy season and sand storms. By
miracle they escaped the hurricane "Mitch" in Central America and the
earthquakes in Colombia and China, which took place right after
they left these countries. Edvardas Ţiţys was operated on in Guatemala
due to the urgent problems of his right eye, but he continued later on,
while in Argentina a car ran into three Peace Riders. They were
immediately hospitalised and could continue later. In Africa the four of them had severe malaria attacks, however the most painful accident happened in India - Walter Ramon, a Peruvian rider - the heart and soul of the group, passed away under the most unexpected and tragic circumstances.
The composition of the group has been
changing all the time. An open event, the Peace Ride invited all those
in support of the idea to join for a moment. Some of the countries in
particular Mexico, Peru, Poland, Lithuania and Japan joined in large
numbers of participants. To that end the government and media of these
countries expressed exceptional attention covering the project in the
numerous papers, magazines, radio and television. Ten of the riders set
off from Seattle, five of them succeeded in crossing Africa, and,
though different participants, in Japan they became ten again. During
one and half years the Peace Ride embraced over 600 participants, which is more than the originally planned group of 500. The following four succeeded in making the whole ride - Goda Čiplytė, Edvardas Žižys, Sigitas Kučas and Slawomir Platek.
The idea of the Peace Ride
was not only to spread the massage of peace, but also to promote the
modern means of communication fostering democracy and the dialogue
among the cultures of the global community. To facilitate communication
with the whole world the Lithuanian company "Ars Computandi" sponsored
the portable computer "Dell Latitude", while the French web design
company "La Generale Multimedia Sud" and "Linkarta", a Lithuanian
company, placed information and photos on the international and
Lithuanian web sites (www.peaceride.org and www.gmpr.lt).
Today it is still difficult to
evaluate the importance of the project, however it was the first
longest bicycle ride of different cultures travelling together and its
symbolic action - to invite the people of the world to live in peace in
the new millennium - proved that peaceful coexistence is possible. It
was a tough, painstaking, yet very meaningful ride. In one and half
years the riders made 24.239 km., had lots of beautiful moments to share, saw many different countries and better understood the world.