The Olympic flame was yesterday officially handed over to the PyeongChang 2018 Organising Committee, following its week-long tour of Greece. It’s now set for a 101-day journey around the Republic of Korea before arriving in host city PyeongChang ahead of next year’s Olympic Winter Games. The final torchbearer in Athens, Greek skier Ioannis Proios presented the flame to Kim Ki-hoon, the first Korean ever to win a gold medal at the Olympic Winter Games (1988) who used it to light the Olympic cauldron. Then Spyros Capralos, president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, performed the official torch handover to Lee Hee-beom, president of the PyeongChang 2018 Organising Committee.
The ceremony took place at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, site of the inaugural modern Olympic Games. It included a performance of traditional Korean ‘Gukak’ music and modern breakdancing. Lee Hee-beom said: “PyeongChang 2018 will be the Olympic Games of culture. We will show you the Korean culture, every day, in the name of an ‘everyday festival’; and also we will show you our state of the art IT technologies, and also PyeongChang will be the games of peace and the games of the environment.” Mr Capralos added: “We think that this symbol of the flame of peace, friendship and fraternity amongst the people will lead everybody to a better world, and sport is producing a better world for everybody”.
The flame, sheltered in a security lamp, will now be flown 8500 miles to the Korean city of Incheon. Its arrival marks 30 years since the Olympic flame was last seen in Korea for the Summer Olympic Games Seoul 1988. The flame will then make its way across the Republic of Korea in a 101-day journey to the Olympic Plaza in PyeongChang, where it will reside in a specially created cauldron for the duration of the games. 7500 torchbearers have been selected to carry the Olympic flame during its tour of the country. It will take in 17 provinces and major cities, and travel via an eclectic mix of transport including ‘turtle ship’ (a traditional Korean warship dating from the 15th century), zip-wire, cable car, steam train and yacht. The handover comes at the end of a week-long relay across the birthplace of the Olympics, starting in Ancient Olympia on 24 October with Greek skiing champion Apostolos Angelis the first to carry the torch.