Brussels is a city where numerous representatives of European Union member states hold events promoting their destinations. This renders the local market highly competitive, especially on weekends, making it quite a challenge to attract attention and draw sizeable crowds. Organisers of the discussed event intended to bring their message to the residents of Brussels, people of various cultures and nationalities.
Their main goal was to put Poland under the spotlight, showcasing its above-average qualities to evoke a positive response of the spectators and encourage them to visit our country. The project itself was evolving for a long time, as it had to reach a wide range of target audiences: Belgians, young people in the Polish diaspora, EU institutions, as well as municipal authorities.
In consequence, the difficult and quite complex undertaking was aimed at a rather diverse group of recipients. To make things more complicated, it took place only several weeks after the terrorist attacks, with Brussels still healing from the events of 22 March.
Preparations involved representatives of the Brussels branch of Polish Tourist Organisation cooperating with its Polish division and the mastermind behind the whole idea – Aneta Książek, then an intern at the Brussels office. The embassy of the Republic of Poland and municipal authorities of Brussels were also invited to join the partnership cooperation.
The event’s ingredients were initially inspired by a game of word associations. The keywords included: a picnic, the promotion of Poland and active lifestyle, an interesting special guest and, naturally, delicious Polish cuisine. They were complemented by a quintessentially Belgian touch – a setting that included the Atomium building, a landmark of Brussels. The monumental whole forms the shape of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times and is located in Laeken, Brussels’ residential suburb.
As many bright ideas were passed around, a concept was born to stage a two-day picnic promoting bicycles and active lifestyle in Poland. It also provided an opportunity to draw attention to Poland’s many cycling routes, with particular emphasis on the Green Velo trail in eastern part of the country. Krystian Herba, an extreme cycling athlete, who specialises in riding up the world’s tallest buildings, was chosen as the special guest and participant with the 102-metre-high Atomium as his latest goal. Herba was planning to set a Guinness record for most steps climbed by bicycle.
The schedule of the two-day happening included numerous highlights, with cycling as their main leitmotif. Bicycles are highly popular in Belgium as a means of transportation used for getting around the city and a part of the national lifestyle. In other words, cycling was considered a fun topic associated with leisure and activity, a good way to use free time.
The bike-centred concept also offered a first-rate chance to promote cycling tourism in Poland and especially the highly impressive Green Velo Eastern Bike Route spanning 2,000 kilometres across the pristine landscapes of Eastern Poland.
Besides the attempt at breaking the Guinness record, other ”wow” moments planned by the organisers involved Krystian Herba demonstrating his bicycle acrobatics skills, i.a. jumping over a man lying on the ground. The whole area of the bicycle picnic was to be filled with the mouthwatering flavours and aromas of Polish cuisine.
Sunday 22 May, 10am. Krystian attempts to break the record of most steps climbed by bicycle, making his way up the Atomium stairs. Wearing a snow-white T-shirt with the ”Poland” inscription and watched by numerous cameras, he rides up the first steps of the building. Yes – Poland is in the lead role. Today – here, in Brussels. When Krystian jumped on the first steps of Atomium, I thought to myself that it could not possibly work. I looked up – the 102-metre-high building conceals as many as 521 steps plus narrow staircases and the smooth, rather slippery metal floor surface. What is more, for the record to be recognised, the cyclist cannot touch the ground with his feet even once. Is it really possible to reach the very top of Atomium only by jumping on a bike?!
Using pulse-like movements, Krystian kept moving from one edge to another, step by step, patiently reaching successive floors. His actions were followed by the curious lens of press photographers and journalists – all eyes on the talented Pole from Rzeszów and the passion within him. After fourteen minutes of punishing jumping, one step at a time, Herba completed his task and reached the top of Atomium. YES! The Guinness World Record was successfully smashed.
On the top floor Herba was greeted by a round of applause and cheers from the organisers, municipal authorities and journalists. Literally everyone wanted to take a picture with Krystian against a photo wall prepared especially for this purpose. There was no end to the congratulations, the numerous handshakes and the signed autographs. And this is how the Polish cyclist was acknowledged as the Guinness World Record title holder in the category of the most steps climbed by bicycle (521 in only 14 minutes and 4 seconds).
The media recipe for a Brussels-set event with a Polish protagonist in its background certainly hit the mark. The record-breaking attempt drew the attention of hundreds of spectators, representatives of several dozen Belgian newspapers and leading TV and radio stations. A press conference held on the day of the event was attended by the key media of Belgium. Followed by thousands of publications covering the Krystian Herba stunt.
The primetime newscast of RTBF, Belgium’s number one TV station, ran a story on the event and the Green Velo tour. The cycling trail was also discussed by the BX1 station and all the major Belgian newspapers, including La Libre, De Standaard and Nieuwsblad. Finally, the events were mentioned by TVP Polonia, TVP Info, Polsat Sport, as well as Onet, Fakt and Interia. Watching the evening news, I was really proud to see Poles in Belgium winning our country some well-deserved publicity all across Europe! A moment of triumph in all its glory!
This is already the fourth Guinness World Record achieved by Krystian, who uses a bicycle to ”climb” the world’s tallest buildings.
His earlier conquests include:
By arranging events of this kind, POT is drawing attention to Poland as a noteworthy tourist destination. The Brussels office of Polish Tourist Organisation in cooperation with the embassy of the Republic of Poland and the Brussels municipal authorities demonstrated that together they can create an event that simultaneously promotes several aspects. Cycling, active lifestyle, the landmarks of Brussels (Atomium). And encourages spectators to learn more about Polish cycling routes and tourist highlights.
Congratulations on the idea and its implementation!
Ps. The list of event’s partners includes: Green Velo, Atomium, East Poland House in Brussels and Société des transports intercommunaux de Bruxelles.