Bertil Hult carries the Olympic torch in Guangzhou May 7, 2008.
When Bertil Hult finished his 200-m torch relay run yesterday, to the cheers from thousands of spectators, the 68-year-old Swede added yet another milestone to his impressive list of life achievements.
Born with dyslexia, Hult was regarded as mentally challenged during his early school years and was unable to learn how to read and write. Yet by the mid-1990s, his company, Education First (EF), had transformed the world into a global classroom.
Hult's story is inspiring. Because of his inability to learn in the classroom he was sent to a special school for handicapped children. By the time he was diagnosed with dyslexia and was sent back to a normal school at age of 9, it was already too late for him to catch up with his peers.
He dropped out of school at the age of 15 and started to work at a bank at the lowest level. However his life took a major turn when the bank recognized his inability to read. It sent him to England to learn English.
"I thought it was a great idea," said Hult. "Other young people should also have the same chance."
Later on in his career, Hult started to bring Swedish young people to England on their summer vacations to learn English. "This is how Education First came about," he said.
By the time Hult retired from his position as the company's CEO in 2002, EF had grown into a multi-billion dollar corporation with more than 20,000 employees in 54 countries.
Last year, EF became an official language training partner for the Beijing Olympics, as it did in 1988 at the Seoul Olympics.
Apart from EF, Bertil Hult is also involved in the fight against illegal drugs and also supports research into dyslexia. In 2006 he was elected This Year's Swede in the World.
"I love sports and I love Olympics," said Hult outside China Hotel in Guangzhou just a few hours before he ran with the torch.
Looking back on his own experience, he encourages those with dyslexia to rise to the challenge.
"You mustn't feel sorry for yourself. You should try to enjoy other possibilities in life.
"Never give up!"
(China Daily May 8, 2008)