PYEONGCHANG – International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach joined the Olympic torch relay for the Pyeongchang Winter Games on its final day before the anticipated lighting of the cauldron at the opening ceremony later Friday.
The 1976 fencing gold medallist Bach ran several hundred metres with the torch before handing it to Miroslav Lacjak, president of the United Nations general assembly, which has followed custom in adopting an Olympic Truce for Pyeongchang.
“I have carried the flame seven times but it is always like the first time. This is a great emotion because the torch is a symbol of peace and tolerance,” said Bach, who was well wrapped up in an official Olympic tracksuit in temperatures of minus 10 Celsius.
“I wish these Games to be remembered as a great festival on a human scale. That is the message we want to get across.”
Organizing committee chief Lee Hee Beom, who was also present, said: “It is finally time. We start tonight after seven long years. We are ready and look forward to the start and to successful Games.”
According to tradition, the Olympic flame was lit on October 24 in Ancient Olympia, Greece, and brought to South Korea on November 1 for the relay around the country from Incheon airport to Pyeongchang's Olympic Stadium.
The last torch bearer to light the cauldron is one of the best kept secrets at all Games. They include the late Muhammad Ali at Atlanta 1996, 400m runner Cathy Freeman at Sydney 2000, the 1980 US ice hockey team at Salt Lake City 2002, and figure skater Irina Rodnina and ice-hockey icon Vladislav Tretiak at Sochi 2014.