ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris. At the Olympics in Beijing, there are some wild performances happening away from the track or the court or the uneven bars. The games have inspired a handful of Chinese non-athletes to carry out some bizarre feats. NPR's Anthony Kuhn introduces us to some Olympic fans who are definitely not on the official game plan.
ANTHONY KUHN: So what is it about 58-year-old acupuncturist Wei Shengchu that attracts crowds on the Olympic green? Maybe it's his Elton-John-style rhinestone glasses or his greasy curls, like 1980s vintage Michael Jackson, or maybe it's the 205 needles stuck in his head, each one with a tiny national flag on it, like an S&M version of the United Nations. Wei explains that this is actually good for him.
Mr. WEI SHENGCHU (Acupuncturist): (Through translator) I'm a beautician. Putting these needles in your head makes your hair blacker. It can turn white hair black. It can stop it from falling out. It improves the hair's quality.
KUHN: But Wei's not doing this just for looks. He's going for the gold too.
Mr. SHENGCHU: (Through translator) The Olympics are like an invisible force. They've drawn me here to the games. On July 31st, I stuck 2008 needles in my head. I've done it five times altogether. I've applied to the Guinness Book of World Records.
KUHN: Most of these Olympic zealots offer similar explanations for what they're doing. The Beijing Olympics, they say, are a once-in-a-lifetime event which fills them with pride and a burning desire to participate, to express and exhibit themselves.
(Soundbite of music)
KUHN: Across town, Liu Ming is hanging out at the shop where he got his Olympic tattoos. He's got the characters for Beijing tattooed around his nose and mouth, Beijing 2008 on his forehead, and the five Olympic mascots around his neck. Liu describes himself as a businessman. He says the Beijing Olympics are too important to be viewed calmly and coolly.
Mr. LIU MING (Businessman): (Speaking foreign language)
KUHN: Not only will I remember this event for the rest of my life, he says, but so will my son and grandson because I can't change my face now. It's not like other people who paint it on and then wipe it off after the Olympics.
Tattoos of the Great Wall and Tiananmen Square adorn his face and body. In case China holds some other historic event, he's got a little space left for tattoos on his kneecaps.
Mr. SUN DINGGUO (Olympic Zealot): (Speaking foreign language)
KUHN: Down the street from the National Stadium, Sun Dingguo does a little rap on the sidewalk. His hair is sculpted into five colored rings. Last year, Sun left his home near Shanghai and pedaled through 45 cities in 11 months, sleeping in his tricycle rickshaw and living off the generosity of strangers.
Mr. DINGGUO: (Through translator) People from all over the nation supported me. They contributed money, blankets, water, fruit, painkillers and cold medicine. I was very moved.
KUHN: Sun's pilgrimage ended at the fence outside the Olympic green. He has no money for tickets.
Mr. DINGGUO: (Through translator) I can't say it's all been fun. I've endured colds and toothaches. I've been interviewed countless times, but nobody knows the suffering I've been through.
KUHN: Sun sets off down the street with some fellow pilgrims, but first, he makes a promise, see you in London in 2012.
Anthony Kuhn, NPR News, Beijing.
NORRIS: And you can see photos of the man who does acupuncture and the guy covered with Olympic tattoos at our Web site, NPR.org.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.