The torch for the Pyeongchang 2018 winter Olympics was lit in ancient Olympia on Tuesday using the backup flame from the dress rehearsal due to rainy weather, kicking off the countdown for the first winter Games in Asia outside Japan.
The run-up to the February 9-25 Olympics has been overshadowed by the escalating crisis on the Korean peninsula triggered by North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile tests.
The torch was lit using Monday’s dress rehearsal flame as clouds and light rain during the ceremony did not allow for the high priestess, played by actress Katerina Lechou, to use the concave reflector and light it using the sun’s rays.
“Our dream of hosting the Olympic winter Games has now become a reality. Korea is only the second Asian nation to have the honour of hosting the winter Games,” Games chief Lee Hee-beom said.
“We want the international community to understand that we are committed to hosting a safe and secure Olympic winter Games.”
The short ceremony inside the stadium used during the ancient Greek Olympics, was also attended by South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon.
“The Olympic Games are sacred and universal,” IOC President Thomas Bach said.
“They stand above and beyond all the differences that divide us. In our fragile world that seems to be drifting apart, the Olympic Games have the power to unite humanity in all its diversity.”
The flame will arrive in South Korea on Nov. 1 for the start of the domestic torch relay as organisers look to boost local enthusiasm amid low ticket sales.
Tensions on the Korean peninsula have risen in recent months as Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump exchanged threats and insults over the North’s nuclear and missile development programme.