Over the last three weeks, the Olympic Torch Relay has made its way along the Republic of Korea’s southern coastline before turning northwards, revealing yet more of the past, present and future of this fascinating country along the way. We bring you right up to date on the latest stages of the Olympic flame’s epic journey to PyeongChang.
When the Olympic Torch Relay left Changnyeong on 16 November, it made a beeline for the coastal city of Sacheon, in South Gyeongsang Province, before journeying back inland to Jinju.
One of the highlights along the way was a flypast by South Korean Air Force’s aerobatic flight team, the Black Eagles.
The flame’s arrival at the stunning riverside Jinjuseong Fortress was greeted by a traditional Korean music performance by local farmers and the Jinju sword dance.
The route on 18 November took in Guobong Mt. Observatory and ended in the city of Kwangyang, a major Asian logistics hub, where a municipal children’s choir marked the Torch Relay’s arrival.
The celebrations continued the following day, as the Olympic flame hitched a ride on the Yeosu Maritime Cable Car and dropped in at Odongdo Island en route to a colourful welcome at the Expo EDG Plaza, where the Korean Coast Guard Academy Honour Guard gave a performance.
There was a musical theme on 20 November, as Gongchan, a singer with Korean boy band B1A4, helped carry the Olympic flame to the environmentally friendly city of Suncheon. Waiting to welcome it at Suncheonman Bay National Garden – famous for being one of the world’s most popular wetlands – was Gongchan’s bandmate Noel, who sang for a large crowd.
21 November ended with the Olympic flame taking pride of place beside a dancing fountain at the Peace Plaza in Mokpo, which commemorates the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to Kim Dae-jung, a former President of the Republic of Korea.
A sailing boat, middle school, radio research agency, dolmens and the Hwasun Red Cliffs were all on the following day’s route as the Torch Relay ventured to the Hwasun Hanium Grass Plaza, where there was more singing and music in honour of the Olympic flame, including a performance based on the Jindo purification rite.
Lim Soo-kyung, a resident of the southwestern city of Gwangju, took her turn to carry the torch the next day, at Jangbul Pass on the city’s Mount Mudeung. The Republic of Korea’s sixth-largest city and the capital of South Jeolla Province, Gwangju welcomed the Olympic Torch Relay at the Gwangju Biennale Exhibition Site, a venue that showcases the conurbation’s culture to the world.
Gwangju World Cup Stadium, one of the venues for the 2002 World Cup, was a notable landmark on the Olympic flame’s final day in the city, which came to an end with more celebrations at Gwangju City Hall, where a choir and cheerleaders played their part in bidding the Torch Relay a fond farewell.
On 27 November, the torch made its way into South Jeolla Province, in the south-west of the country. Among the day’s torchbearers was famous Korean actor and musician Kwak Dong-yeon
The torch was given a spectacular reception by the local population when Gokseong Train Station was transformed into a theme park for the occasion, with performances of traditional Korean music and sword dances among a varied programme of entertainment laid on.
The Olympic Torch Relay spent the following four days on a tour of North Jeolla Province. In Namwon, weightlifter Lee Ha-young joined fellow torchbearers against the spectacular backdrop of the town’s ancient fortress. The Relay ended the day with more festivities and traditional music performances in the Plaza of Love at Chungyang’s theme park.
The varied programme over the following three days saw the Relay stop off at a theme park devoted entirely to cheese in Imsil, a wine cave in Murue, and being treated to a spectacular flash mob performance in Hansu. Meanwhile, in the town of Muju, Kim Sung-tae, head of the Taekwondo Promotion Foundation, led a demonstration of the traditional Korean martial art before taking his place as a torchbearer.
On 2 December, the Olympic Torch Relay arrived in Iksan, an important transport hub on the Korean rail network. The city’s station provided the setting for a performance entitled Light and Sound of a Thousand Years by a local dance troupe and choir.
The following day, in Gunsan, there were special celebrations laid on at the town’s Modern History Museum. Among the highlights on the cultural programme were a traditional ‘samulnori’ percussion performance.
And on 5 December, the Olympic Torch Relay made its way to Buyeo in South Chungcheong Province – once the country’s capital. The Jeong-lim Buddist Temple, a listed historical monument, provided the impressive backdrop for a music and dance performance.