Olympic flame ventures northwards to Seoul
The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Torch Relay has continued its epic journey through the Republic of Korea over the first two weeks of the year, revealing yet more of the past, present and future of this fascinating country. We bring you up to date with the latest stages of the Relay as the Olympic flame made its way north to the capital Seoul.
Having seen in the New Year in Daegu and greeted the first sunrise of 2018 in Pohang, the Olympic flame toured the ancient city of Gyeongju on the second day of the year. After taking in the Bulguksa Temple, Negeori Museum and the Seokguram Grotto, the flame arrived at the EXPO Park, where it was greeted by the GARAM Performing Art Company’s B-Boy troupe and Hwarang warriors, who performed a traditional dance.
Wednesday 3 January saw the eighth of the 13 Relay for Everyone events that form an integral part of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Torch Relay. The day’s destination was Waryong-ri, a village situated in the centre of the country and home to a community of senior citizens, who welcomed the flame at a morning ceremony before watching a video about the upcoming Winter Games and then posing with the Torch in a photo session.
There was another Relay for Everyone event the following day as the Olympic flame called in at the Dongbang Vocational Rehabilitation Centre in Pyeongtaek-si, in the country’s north west. The centre was set up in 1998 for the purpose of providing employment opportunities to local school leavers and people with disabilities. The students tried their hand at some mini Olympic sports before posing with the Torch.
The Olympic Torch Relay headed to Suwon on Friday 5 January, where it received a lavish welcome at Hwaseong Haenggung Palace. Among the highlights of the celebrations held to mark its arrival was a ceremony performed by the Jang Yong Yeong Security Guards and a Yegi Bojonhoe court dance.
Korea’s largest theme park and home to a safari park, Caribbean bay and many other attractions, Everland in the city of Yongin provided the venue for the next day’s Torch celebrations, which included a multimedia fireworks show.
On Sunday 7 January it was on to Cheongseok Park in nearby Seongnam, where tightrope walkers and the drums of Gwangju City Nongakdan greeted the Olympic flame, while a boys’ and girls’ choir and the Seongnam City Choir were on hand the next day to extend it a musical welcome at Bundang Central Park.
The tenth Relay for Everyone leg took place on Tuesday 9 January, as the Olympic Torch Relay called in on the street cleaners of Icheon-si, a town in the northwestern region of Gyeonggi-do. The workers had the chance to hold the Torch for themselves and have a taste of the Olympic experience by playing a game of floor curling.
Then came three days in the city of Incheon, west of Seoul, where badminton player Chung Jae-sung was among the torchbearers as the Olympic Torch Relay called in at Incheon Culture Park, the city’s Cultural Arts Centre, and Yongheunggung Palace, among many other destinations.
Saturday 13 January was a landmark day for the Torch Relay as it arrived in the capital city Seoul, where the Olympic flame will burn for the first time since 1988, when the city hosted the Summer Olympic Games.
On its first day in the city the Olympic Torch Relay made its way to the Seoul World Cup Stadium and the Dongdaemun History & Culture Park. The day’s final destination was Gwanghwamun Square, in the centre of Seoul, where the Olympic flame was greeted by a special royal procession featuring 300 people wearing traditional Korean costumes.
Lee Kee-heung, the president of the Korea Sport and Olympic Committee, was on the roster of torchbearers the following day as the Olympic flame travelled to the city’s Olympic Stadium.
He was helped in his task by a galaxy of Korean sports stars, including former speed skater Kim Yoon-man, who won the Republic of Korea’s first ever Olympic Winter Games medal: silver in the men’s 500m at Albertville 1992.
Representing summer sports were Hyun Jung-hwa and Yang Young-ja, who combined to land women’s doubles table tennis gold on home soil in 1988, London 2012 double archery gold medallist Ki Bo-bae, and Beijing 2008 men’s judo champion Choi Min-ho.
A suitably spectacular fire arts performance was laid on for the Olympic Torch Relay’s arrival at the stadium, as well as a victory fanfare performed by a brass band.
After four days in the capital city, the Torch Relay is set to head further north to the cities of Goyang and Paju on Wednesday 17 January.