It could be one of the most unusual sights in Olympic history -- the world's hairiest man holding the Olympic flame aloft.
China's Yu Zhenhuan, who has nicknamed himself "King Kong" on account of 96 percent of his skin being covered in hair, has launched an unabashed publicity campaign to take part in the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"It would be a great honor to join the Olympic torch relay," said the 30-year-old rock singer from the northeastern province of Liaoning.
"The Olympics belong to everyone -- the common people and those with abnormalities included," Yu said.
Yu believes he is the ideal candidate.
"First I am a celebrity, inside and outside of China," he said, "and secondly, I think my experience in coping with a disfigurement ties in with the notion of Olympic spirit."
He has even managed to acquire the support of Olympic champion Xing Aowei, who won a gymnastics gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
"In him, I see the perseverance and bravery of the Chinese people," Xing told Xinhua News Agency, "I will help him with publicity and give him some ideas."
But the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) shows no sign of bowing to Yu's celebrity status. "We welcome celebrities to apply to join the torch relay," a spokesman told Xinhua, declining to give his name, "but it is hard to assess his chances, as the recruitment is open to everyone."
BOCOG began the torch-bearer recruitment program in June and plan to select a total of 21,880 people for the 137,000-kilometer, 130-day relay, which is scheduled to begin on March 25, 2008.
Torch bearers are selected either through recommendations by various organizations and institutions or by an open process in which the public can apply.
Yu entered the Guinness Book of Records in 2002 and was last in the news in November last year, when a Beijing court rejected his claim for 200,000 yuan in compensation from World Carnival (Beijing) Company who used his image on their website without his permission.
Yu, who plans to get married to his second girlfriend before the end of the year, has recently adopted the nickname of "King Kong" because he believes they are "similar not only in appearance, but in obstinacy and affectionateness".
(Xinhua News Agency August 1, 2007)