Thu, Nov 02, 2017 - Page 16 News List

Olympic flame arrives in S Korea


Figure skater Young You stands with the Olympic torch yesterday on the Incheon Bridge in Incheon, South Korea.

Photo: EPA

The Olympic flame arrived in South Korea yesterday where it will be passed throughout the nation by thousands of torchbearers on a 100-day journey to the opening ceremony of the next year’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang.

South Korean figure skating prospect You Young yesterday was to begin the 2,018km trip from Incheon.

Pyeongchang’s organizers have designated 7,500 torchbearers to carry the Olympic flame, which arrived at the Incheon International Airport after a handover ceremony in Athens on Tuesday.

Retired Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yuna, who is one of the nation’s most popular sports personalities, joined South Korean Prime Minster Lee Nak-yon in igniting the flame to a ceremonial cauldron at the airport to mark the start of the torch relay.

The Olympic flame last touched the country 30 years ago when the 1988 Summer Olympics were held in Seoul.

Preparations for the Games to be held from Feb. 9 to Feb. 25 next year are being held amid tension over North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile tests. There are also concerns over the huge costs for hosting the Games and maintaining facilities that might have little use once the party leaves town.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who has urged the North to participate in next year’s Olympics, yesterday said in a speech to lawmakers that the Games are a “golden opportunity” to strengthen peace on the Korean Peninsula.

“Ensuring the success of the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and Paralympics that are 100 days away is a national task,” Moon said.

Although a North Korean figure skating pair has qualified for the Games, it is uncertain whether Pyongyang would allow the skaters to compete in Pyeongchang, a ski resort town just 80km south of the heavily armed border.

North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics and has ignored the South’s proposals for dialogue in recent months.

Through the relay routes, the Olympic flame will be carried in a specially designed torch, which will be guarded closely to ensure that the light does not go out.

After passing through Incheon, the flame is to be carried through the southern resort island of Jeju today and on Friday before re-entering the mainland. It will pass through Seoul in January next year.

Organizers hope that the torch relay will generate excitement for the Games, which have failed to dominate conversation in a nation and has only sold 341,327 tickets as of Tuesday last week, 32 percent of the total.

This is much weaker than the run-up the last Games in Sochi, Russia, when 70 percent of tickets were sold before the opening ceremony.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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