The Olympic torch was formally handed over from Greece to Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Winter Games organisers on Tuesday in a simple ceremony.
Under overcast skies at the Panathenaic Stadium that hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896, the torch was presented to South Korean President of the Pyeongchang 2018 Organising Committee Lee Hee Beom by the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee, Spyros Capralos.
Attending the handover ceremony was Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos.
“We are honoured that the Pyeongchang Winter Games represents the second time the Olympic Flame will be in South Korea, since the 1988 Seoul summer Olympic Games.
“The slogan of the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Torch Relay, ‘Let Everyone Shine,’ means the Olympic flame will shine for each and everyone’s dream, passions and future anytime and anywhere,” Lee said.
He said when the Olympic flame arrives in South Korea “we also celebrate another milestone – 100 days to go until the start of the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang”.
“The Olympic Torch Relay will be a very special journey that will shine throughout the host nation, for dreams and passion toward winter sports in Asia and beyond,” Lee added.
“The Olympic Flame is a strong symbol of tradition and values governing the Olympic Movement. It is a beacon for the Olympic values. It is the symbol of universal peace,” Capralos said.
The second to last torchbearer Kim Ki-hoon, South Korean Olympic champion in short track speed skating, passed the flame to the last torchbearer, Greek skiing champion Ioannis Proios, who lit the cauldron, while thousands of spectators cheered.
The Olympic flame was lit in Ancient Olympia last week and embarked on a week-long 2,129 kilometres journey throughout Greece ending at Panathenaic Stadium.
Participating were 505 torchbearers and 36 welcome ceremonies were held in 20 municipalities during the eight days.
From Greece the flame will be flown to South Korea for a relay around the Asian country until the opening ceremonies at Pyeongchang on February 9.
The torch harks back to the ancient Olympics, when a sacred flame burned throughout the Games. The tradition was revived in 1936 for the Berlin Olympics.
The South Korea government has promised that the Pyeongchang Games would be safe after some nations suggested they may skip the event if tensions over North Korea’s nuclear ambitions worsen.
The Pyeongchang Winter Games will be held from February 9-25 only 80km from the heavily guarded border with the nuclear-armed North.
The South has successfully staged several international sporting events including the 2002 FIFA World Cup despite decades of military tensions on the peninsula.
The 1988 Seoul summer Olympics took place only months after a bomb planted by North Korean agents killed all 115 people on board a South Korean plane, in an apparent attempt to scare off foreign spectators and contestants.