Cyclists Ron Rutland and James Owens have finally completed their remarkable quest of cycling over 20,000kms through 27 countries from London to Tokyo, to deliver an official whistle for the opening match of Rugby World Cup 2019, to be played between Japan and Russia on Friday.
The ‘Race to RWC’ started on 2 February 2019, departing Twickenham Stadium, London, and Ron and James finally arrived in Osaka, Japan on 12 September. Their journey has seen them battle all the elements, as well as embrace a vast array of hospitality ranging from their tent to the homes of locals, kindly offering them a place to stay.
The expedition, backed by DHL, the Official Logistics Partner of Rugby World Cup 2019, supports ChildFund, World Rugby’s principal charity partner, and their unique rugby for development programme ChildFund Pass It Back. This programme gives children in Asia, primarily those living in disadvantaged communities, the opportunity to take part in organised sport, often for the first time, and learn vital life skills through rugby.
Following completion of Thursday morning’s captains run by the Japan team, Ron and James cycled into Tokyo Stadium and officially handed over the whistle that they have carried with them from London to referee Nigel Owens, who has the honor of refereeing the opening match at Rugby World Cup 2019 on Friday.
Rugby legends and DHL Ambassadors Sir John Kirwan and Shotaro Onishi cycled with the two on the last day of their journey, and were joined by Alan Gilpin, Tournament Director, Rugby World Cup 2019, Fiona Taag, Head of Global Sponsorship DHL Express; and Adrian Graham, COO ChildFund Australia, as the handover ceremony was conducted at Tokyo Stadium.
On arrival at Tokyo Stadium Ron Rutland said: “Words don’t begin to describe it. James and I have been the ones lucky enough to get to ride from London but it was a great team effort with DHL, World Rugby, ChildFund, and just as importantly the thousands and thousands of people we met on the route who supported us and invited us into their homes, they were the kindest of people.
“The welcome we received just cycling from Osaka through Japan has been amazing. We are looking forward to the World Cup now and to parking the bikes and enjoying the next six weeks in this wonderful country.”
James Owens added: “We’ve been on an awesome journey since we left London seven months ago, but for me it’s more than a journey, we’ve had this incredible support network across the trip, so thanks to everyone who’s bought into our journey. We’re really proud to have been able to support ChildFund Pass It Back, and honoured to have played a small role in the journey they have been on themselves.”
Alan Gilpin, Rugby World Cup Tournament Director said: “Congratulations to Ron and James on completing their incredible adventure. Not only have they achieved a remarkable personal feat, spreading the rugby message around the world, but they have made a transformational difference to thousands of disadvantaged children in Asia with their remarkable ChildFund Pass It Back fundraising efforts.”
President, DHL Express Japan, Taketo Yamakawa, said, “Congratulations to Ron and James for completing their epic journey and a very warm welcome to Japan! By cycling more than 20,000km from London to deliver the official whistle in Tokyo, they truly embody the DHL spirit of ‘Can Do’ and ‘Passion’. Their fundraising efforts for ChildFund Pass It Back will go a long way to empowering children with a brighter future.”
CEO of ChildFund Nigel Spence says: “We are immensely proud of Ron and James, and their dedication to helping children living in some of Asia’s most disadvantaged communities.
“Having clocked over 20,000kms on their bikes, and crossed the borders of more than 20 countries, we hope they reach the finishing line in Tokyo with a sense of real accomplishment.
“Their epic journey may now be over, but hundreds of young people now and in the future will be given the opportunity to play, learn and grow. Thank you to Ron and James from all at ChildFund; we are hugely appreciative of your support.”