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(LEAD) Torch relay for PyeongChang Paralympics to start in March 2018

2017/09/08 16:25

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(ATTN: UPDATES throughout with details; ADDS more info in paras 10, 12-13)

SEOUL, Sept. 8 (Yonhap) -- The torch relay for the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics in South Korea will start in March 2018, the event's organizers said Friday.

The PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) said the Paralympic flame will first be lit in five South Korean cities and regions -- Anyang, Nonsan, Gochang, Cheongdo and Jeju Island -- on March 2, which is also the day of the first full moon of the Lunar New Year -- and the lighting of the fire will also take place in three other cities including Stoke Mandeville in Britain, the birthplace of the Paralympics, the next day.

Under the theme "Center of Shining," the organizers said the eight flames will be united on March 3 at Seoul Olympic Park's World Peace Gate, where the first Paralympic torch relay started in 1988.

The torch will then begin a five-day tour through cities and counties in Gangwon Province, where PyeongChang is located. The torch relay will cover 2,018 kilometers in distance, signifying the year in which the March 9-18 Paralympics will take place. After completing its cross-country journey, the flame will be lit at the cauldron at the Olympic Plaza in PyeongChang during the Paralympic Games.

The POCOG said there will be events in cities celebrating the arrival of the Paralympic torch and it will use various high-tech equipment, including a wearable robot called "Walk-On," to help paraplegic torchbearers during the relay.

The POCOG said 800 torch bearers will participate in the relay and to emphasize companionship, they will carry the torch in groups of two. The organizers also said that additional 218 support runners will join the relay.

The POCOG and its partners will select torchbearers after receiving applications later this month. The selection process is expected to be completed by February.

The design of the Paralympic torch is inspired by the host city PyeongChang, located some 180 kilometers east of Seoul. The organizers said the torch is 700mm in length, which represents the altitude of PyeongChang, which sits 700m above sea level, and its color is white to embrace snow and ice.

The four Paralympic values -- courage, determination, inspiration and equality -- along with the PyeongChang 2018 slogan "Passion. Connected." are written in Braille on the torch, the organizers said.

The torchbearer uniform was also unveiled. It is white and covered with Paralympic symbols. The organizers said waterproof and hybrid material has been used for the uniform, allowing torchbearers to cope with the cold weather conditions.

The slogan for the torch relay is "Let Everyone Shine," the same slogan used for the PyeongChang Olympic torch relay.

Lee Hee-beom, who heads the POCOG, said the 2018 Paralympic torch relay will be a "barrier-free" relay. The five local cities selected for the relay are certified as "barrier-free" cities by the Korean Disabled People's Institute as they offer easy access to tourism facilities and services for people with disabilities

"It's meaningful that the world's first Paralympic torch relay started in South Korea 30 years ago and we're about to do it again," he said. "The PyeongChang Paralympic torch relay will embrace companionship and harmony. We hope many people give their support to this event."

  

Lee Hee-beom (third from R), the president of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, poses for a photo with Sean (second from), a South Korean singer appointed as honorary ambassador for the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics, and volunteers holding Paralympic torch in an event in Seoul on Sept. 8, 2017. (Yonhap)  Lee Hee-beom (third from R), the president of the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games, poses for a photo with Sean (second from), a South Korean singer appointed as honorary ambassador for the 2018 PyeongChang Paralympics, and volunteers holding Paralympic torch in an event in Seoul on Sept. 8, 2017. (Yonhap)

kdon@yna.co.kr

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