SEOUL, March 3 (Yonhap) -- The torch relay for the March 9-18 PyeongChang Paralympic Games kicked off on Saturday, heralding another international sports festival following the two-week Winter Olympics held in the same host city last month.
The organizing committees of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics held a torch lighting ceremony at 7 p.m. at Olympic Park in eastern Seoul.
Eight flames were unified into a single flame at a cauldron, with the flames representing the five regions of host country South Korea; Stoke Mandeville of England, the cradle of the Paralympic Games; the 1998 Seoul Paralympics; and congratulatory messages from around the globe.
The ceremony was attended by over 1,000 citizens and officials, including Lee Hee-beom, the head of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics organizing committee; Do Jong-hwan, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism; and Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon.
"The ceremony has significance in that it is held at the historical site where the flame of the 1988 Seoul Olympics was set ablaze," Lee said in a speech.
A new torch was then lit by Sports Minister Do and carried by figure skating athlete Choi Da-bin to figure skating champion Kim Yu-na to mark the start of the torch relay.
The torch relay is due to start early Sunday. A total of 148 torch runners will participate along the 67.9 kilometer course. The torch is expected to arrive in the host city of PyeongChang, Gangwon Province, by Friday, when the games begin.
Eight torches held by eight representatives, including Paralympic and government officials, are joined to create a single flame during the torch lighting ceremony of the PyeongChang Paralympic Games at Olympic Park in eastern Seoul on March 3, 2018. (Yonhap)