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Olympic Flame for 2018 Pyeongchang Games Lit in Greece

Park Ji-Sung holds the Olympic torch at the Temple of Hera in Greece on Tuesday during the lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. /AFP-Yonhap

The flame for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics was lit Tuesday at the Temple of Hera in Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the ancient games.

The torch carrying the flame will arrive in Korea on Nov. 1, 100 days before the Winter Olympics start. Korea also had the flame for the 1988 summer Olympics in Seoul.

The ceremony was attended by hundreds of guests including International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, Greek President Prokopios Pavlopoulos, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, Pyeongchang organizing committee chairman Lee Hee-bum, as well as football star Park Ji-sung, who is a goodwill ambassador for the Games.

The torch bearer was Greek cross-country skier Apostolos Angelis, who competed in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics and will compete in Pyeongchang as well.

Angelis ran with the torch for about three minutes to the Pierre de Coubertin Grove, which was built to honor the founder of the International Olympic Committee. It was then handed to Park, who played a key role in taking Korea to the quarter finals in the 2002 World Cup.

It will be carried throughout Greece for the next week by 505 people, taking in 36 cities and covering a distance of 2,129 km. It arrives at the Acropolis in Athens next Monday, where it is handed over to representatives from the Pyeongchang organizing committee.

Arriving in Korea on Nov. 1, the torch will embark on a tour starting from Jeju Island and ending in Gangwon Province, where Pyeongchang is located. It will cover a distance of 2,018 km here in deference to the calendar year. A total of 7,500 people will carry it until Feb. 9, the eve of the opening ceremony.

But in Korea, enthusiasm for the games is at nothing like the fever pitch of the summer Olympics in 1988. A survey by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism in September showed that only 39.9 percent of Koreans said they are interested, and a mere 7.1 percent plan to visit the sports venues.

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