Olympic Torch Relay enters final straight
The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Torch Relay is closing in on its final destination: the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium and the Opening Ceremony of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games on 9 February. Over the last week, the Olympic flame has been touring the north east of the Republic of Korea, travelling from Hongcheon to Donghae and revealing yet more of the past, present and future of this fascinating country. With just a matter of days remaining until PyeongChang 2018 gets under way, we bring you the latest on the Olympic Torch Relay.
On Tuesday 30 January, the Olympic Torch Relay took in Sutasa Temple, Mugunghwa Park and the Hongcheon Culture and Arts Centre, before ending the day at Tori Forest, an urban park in Hongcheon County. The celebrations held to mark its arrival there included a “Welcome to PyeongChang” flash mob, a performance by the singer Insooni, and a spot of nanta, a Korean form of non-verbal comedy.
When it returned to the road the following day, the Olympic flame headed south through the Seomjin River Basin to the lush grasslands of Hoengseong County, which is famed for its succulent beef, known in Korean as hanwoo. In recognition of the importance of the cow to the people of Hoengseong and the local economy, the Olympic flame hitched a ride on a cow-drawn cart on its journey through the county.
The Olympic Torch Relay broke off for the 13th and final Relay for Everyone event on Thursday 1 February, paying a visit to Unsan Branch School in the coastal city of Gangneung-si. The school’s 16 children gave the warmest of welcomes to the Olympic flame before taking part in an Olympic torch-themed quiz, playing a game of floor curling, and then having the chance to hold the Olympic torch and have their photos taken with it.
The countdown to PyeongChang 2018 continued on Friday 2 February, as the Olympic flame hit the road again, heading to the stadium in Wonju, where it was treated to a big drum percussion performance and a dance piece entitled Wonju Aria, staged by the Kim Young-Ah Art Troupe.
The Olympic Torch Relay was seeing stars on Saturday 3 February as it took in the Byeolmaro Observatory en route to Yeongwol Sports Park, its final port of call of the day, where a local children’s choir sang as part of the festivities held to greet its arrival.
There was traditional dance and performances by the singer Do Hyun-a and the city choir when the Olympic flame arrived in Taebaek Culture Square on Sunday 4 February, while the outstanding scenery of the Samcheok region provided a stunning backdrop as the Olympic Torch Relay edged ever closer to PyeongChang the following day.
Situated on the shores of the East Sea, Samcheok is home to beautiful beaches, high cliffs and a large number of coastal caves, including Daegeum Cave, home to waterfalls, lakes and sparkling stalactites. Popular with tourists, the area is served by an ocean railbike, which played its part in the Olympic Torch Relay as riders ferried the Olympic flame from Gungchon Station to Hwang Young Jo Memorial Hall, built in honour of the Barcelona 1992 men’s Olympic marathon champion.
The Olympic flame ended the day at the Samcheok Culture and Art Centre, where the Isabu Dance Group staged a piece entitled “Vigour of A Tree Lion and General Isabu”.
Donghae’s Mukho Harbour, the largest trading port on the country’s east coast, was the last stop on Tuesday 6 February. The Olympic flame arrived at the city’s Waterside Park for the performance of a play in which the central character walks on Korean Earth spirits called jishin in a bid to bring success to the Olympic Torch Relay and the Olympic Games themselves.
After stop-offs in Jeongseon and Gangneung, the Olympic Torch Relay will complete its marathon journey around the Republic of Korea at the Opening Ceremony of the XXIII Olympic Winter Games at the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium on Friday 9 February.