The torch for the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Games arrived in Seoul on Saturday for a four-day relay event throughout the capital city.
The torch relay will be held in the city until Tuesday in a course that spans 103 kilometers, with some 600 torchbearers joining the race, according to officials at the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
It marks the first time in nearly 30 years for the capital city to hold a torch relay event since the 1988 Summer Olympics held in Seoul. The 2018 Winter Games will kick off in PyeongChang, which lies 180 kilometers east of Seoul in Gangwon Province, on Feb. 9.
Seoul's torch relay began at the Digital Magic Space in Sangam-dong at 8:35 a.m., when the first bearer, freestyle skier Park Hee-jin, showed up amid a festive mood uplifted by drum beats and cheers from ordinary citizens.
"It is an honor to become the first torch bearer of Seoul. I'll relay this enthusiasm to all Olympic athletes in PyeongCheong,"
said Park, who competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Around 9 a.m., the torch was relayed to South Korean football legend Cha Bum-kun in front of Seoul World Cup Stadium.
"South Korea's football is now in a difficult time, but we have hope for the future. I'm honored to relay the Olympic torch, along with our country's future football heroes," said Cha, who ran with six young football players.
A Seoul citizen who identified himself as Kim, 60, said: "I came to personally witness the Olympic torch. I wish for a successful Olympics in PyeongChang. I also wish North Korean athletes come to PyeongChang for national unity."
The Olympic torch carries the flame that was lit at the Temple of Hera in Greece in October, which arrived in South Korea in November. It then toured major cities across the country, including Jeju, Busan, Gwangju, Daejeon and Incheon, before arriving in Seoul.
During Sunday's relay, the torch will reach Seoul Olympic Stadium, the venue for the opening and closing ceremonies at the
1988 Seoul Summer Games. Some past and current Olympians will have the honor of carrying the Olympic flame that day, according to the Korean Sport & Olympic Committee (KSOC).
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said the city will focus efforts on promoting the upcoming Winter Games in the country.
After leaving Seoul, the torch will travel to the northern parts of Gyeonggi Province and head toward the host city of the Winter Games. The combined distance traveled by the torch will reach 2,018 kilometers, carried by around 7,500 torchbearers. The Olympics will run from Feb. 9-25. (Yonhap)