They came to walk in aid of charity - but there were so many that the event had to be canceled.
"Fight Hunger: Walk the World 2007" - which was held worldwide - attracted 30,000 people yesterday morning to the Beijing World Park, far in excess of the 1,000 registration limit.
The announcement came around 10:20 AM when park authorities were worried about public safety and asked that the walk be called off.
Visitors are blocked from the Beijing World Park yesterday because of big crowds.
Anthea Webb, director of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) - China the organizer of the event-said: "We are very disappointed. It is a big pity."
The Beijing Times, a local newspaper, reported on Wednesday that participants will be admitted free to the park, which normally charges 65 yuan (US$8.4) a head, but it didn't mention they have to register beforehand.
"It is a very simple journalism error," said Webb. "But a lot of people read it and came here."
If there is anything to learn from this, it is that people in China do care about hunger worldwide, she said, adding that the world cannot be complacent as hunger is still a very serious problem.
Some walkers, in white T-shirts with orange sleeves, were surprised and downcast about the cancellation but decided to walk anyway. "We are here to support the fight against hunger. It doesn't matter the event has been canceled. We decided to walk," said Sheila Burch, coordinator of Western Academy of Beijing, who led her team of 65.
Pak A-reum, a Korean student from Beijing Foreign Studies University, said she was disappointed.
"We got up early and took two buses to come here, only to know it was canceled... They could have managed it better."
Despite the cancellation, walkers donated money to the event. Hua Xueliang, 25, a software engineer at IaSolution Technology, said he believed the donation to organization such as the WFP will be efficiently used to help those in need.
To increase public awareness of child hunger and raise funds to finance projects for hungry children, the event was initiated in 2003 at the Great Wall and expanded to a global activity covering 24 time zones.
(China Daily May 14, 2007)