During its first two weeks in the Republic of Korea, the Olympic Torch Relay has already travelled on land and sea, shining a light on the rich diversity of cultural life in the host country, and delving into its fascinating history. Join us as we catch up on the journey so far…
A veritable who’s who of Korean sports and entertainment stars were present to greet the Olympic flame’s arrival in the host country on 1 November. Figure skater You Young had the honour of being the first torchbearer on home soil. She is best known for becoming the youngest singles champion in the history of the host country, in January 2016, breaking the record previously held by Olympic gold medallist Yuna Kim. You, who is just 13, won't be old enough to compete at PyeongChang, but was delighted to be given such a prestigious role in the Torch Relay. "I feel so good and am so honoured to be the first one," You said. "I am just so happy right now. I'll remember this day forever."
Another local sporting star, speed skater Lee Sang-hwa, who will be aiming for a record-equalling third Olympic gold in the women’s 500m in PyeongChang, was also delighted to be involved in the Relay.
“As an Olympic athlete, I've long dreamed of running in the torch relay," Lee said after running some 200m with the torch. "It's a huge honour, and to do it for the country makes it extra special.”
On 3 November, the Olympic Torch Relay made its way onto the Republic of Korea’s largest island, Jeju, where the torchbearers included several "haenyeo" divers. Haenyeo are women who make their living harvesting seafood by hand from the ocean floor, and famously do so without using any breathing equipment.
The following day, the Olympic flame was back on the mainland, arriving in the port city of Busan, where the torchbearers included one of the Republic of Korea’s most successful sporting “exports”, Choo Shin-soo, who plays for baseball team Texas Rangers in the USA, and who returned to his home town specially to be part of the Olympic Torch Relay. Meanwhile, Deanna Rupert, an American who has made the Republic of Korea her home, was also involved in the Busan leg of the relay. The school teacher and her two daughters hit the headlines last year when they played a lead role in the clean-up of Busan’s local Gwangalli beach, following the devastation caused by a typhoon.
That night, Choo Sin-soo and Rupert were among the thousands who enjoyed a spectacular firework display which lit up the skies over the port of Busan.
After two days in Busan, the Olympic Torch Relay remained in the south east of the country, making its way to Ulsan – the Republic of Korea’s seventh largest city. On the evening of Wednesday 8 November, the arrival of the flame in the city’s Hatbit Square was marked by a performance by Ulsan City Choir and a traditional local dance show.
The following day saw the flame carried to the banks of the Taehwa River, which runs through the city. An outdoor stage was set up for the occasion, with the crowd being treated to an art show depicting Ulsan’s 12 most iconic landscapes.
On Friday 10 November, the Olympic Torch Relay ventured to Ganjeol Cape, the point where the sun rises earliest on the Korean Peninsula. Ulsan then marked its last night on the Torch Relay schedule by staging a massive celebration in the city’s Grand Park.
As well as dancers with hula-hoops decorated in the five colours of the Olympic rings, the show also featured a stunning LED lights display and a performance of Nanta, a traditional Korean form of non-verbal comedy.
The following day’s Relay leg ended at the ancient tombs of Daesung-dong, where the historic relics of the ancient Korean state of Geumgwan Gaya are housed. Among the highlights of the events programme here was a musical about King Suro – one of the state’s rulers.
Geoje, which prides itself as a “clean ocean city”, was the final port of call on Sunday 12 November, where local musicians performed traditional Korean folk music known as Pangut, with an orchestra and a boys and girls’ choir also adding to the occasion.
On Monday 13 November, the Olympic flame took to the water, embarking on a trip on a “turtle ship” in Tongyeong, in South Gyeongsang province. These iron-clad vessels date back to the 16th century, when they were built by Admiral Yi Sun-sin, a naval commander in the Joseon Dynasty.
Among the torchbearers on Tuesday 14 November was Navy lieutenant Kim Kyu-hwan, who held the Olympic flame aloft on a ship off the coast of the city of Changwon in South Gyeongsang province. The residents of Changwon played their part in welcoming the flame when it reached dry land, greeting its arrival with an impressive flash mob performance.
There was yet another flash mob show in store the following day, when the Olympic Torch Relay reached Changnyeong. En route, the Olympic flame hit the water once again, enjoying a ride in a fisherman’s boat on the Upo Wetland, which is the largest wetland in the Republic of Korea and home to several rare indigenous species of birds, plants and fish.
The PyeongChang Olympic Torch Relay has three Presenting Partners: Worldwide TOP Partner Coca-Cola, which continues its long-standing support for Olympic torch relays, Worldwide TOP Partner Samsung and local Partner KT. For further information, please visit the PyeongChang website.