Seoul, March 2 (IANS) Lighting ceremonies for the Paralympic flame were held in five local cities on Friday as South Korea began its eight-day torch relay for the 2018 Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province.
Five Korean cities and counties — Jeju, Anyang, Nonsan, Gochang and Cheongdo — each ignited a flame on the day of the first full moon of the Lunar New Year, reports Yonhap news agency.
These five cities were selected because they provide convenient access to tourism facilities and services for people with disabilities, according to the organisers, who added that they are also certified as “barrier free” cities by the Korean Disabled People’s Institute.
With the lighting of the flames, the torch relay for the Paralympics began its journey with 50 torch-bearers carrying the flames throughout the five cities.
The organisers said the five flames will be unified in Seoul on Saturday at a special event under the theme of “Centre of Shining,” spreading a message of passion, harmony and equality.
They said the flames will be joined with the first flame for the Paralympics, which has been safeguarded at the Olympic Park World Peace Gate in Seoul since the 1988 Summer Paralympics.
With the five flames, the Paralympic Heritage Flame from Stoke Mandeville in the United Kingdom, the birthplace of the Paralympics; the 1988 Seoul flame; and a digital flame will be unified together to create a single flame for the PyeongChang Paralympics.
After the flames are joined together, Lee Yong-ro, the first disabled South Korean to become a sports professor, will serve as the first torch-bearer using a wearable robot named “Walk-On,” along with Kong Kyung-chul, who developed the robot.
Following them will be actor and PyeongChang 2018 honourary ambassador Lee Dong-wook. He will be followed by former Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na, who will run next to para-cross country skier Bong Hyeon-chae.
The Paralympic flame will travel a total of 2,018 kilometers, a figure that includes the distance between Seoul and the five cities and counties where the flames were ignited.
A total of 800 torchbearers will participate in groups of two to complete the total of 2,018 kilometres to celebrate the year of the PyeongChang Paralympics.
“I hope the torch relay will break down barriers in society and celebrate inclusiveness and peace across our nation and the world,” Lee Hee-beom, the chief organiser for the PyeongChang Paralympics, said in a release.
The 2018 Paralympic Winter Games will take place from March 9 to 18 in PyeongChang and two other sub-host cities. The Games will feature 570 athletes from 49 athletes competing in six sports for 80 gold medals.