The local leg of the Olympic torch relay was yesterday cheered along on streets packed with spectators eager to catch a glimpse of the flame in the former Games venue.
"I'm very excited at hosting this meaningful event," ROK Olympic Committee chief Kim Jung-kil, who started the relay, said just before his run. "This year is particularly significant for Koreans because it's the 20th year since the Seoul Olympics."
Two decades ago, Moon Dae-sung was a sixth grader in elementary school but when he received the torch from Kim yesterday, the 31-year-old is already an Olympic gold medalist in taekwondo and a popular figure in the country.
Moon said: "I'm very excited to carry the torch. I hope the Beijing Olympics will be a very successful event for world peace and that everything will be fine for the sake of world peace."
The former athlete will pay his fifth visit to Beijing in August when the Games opens, this time as a spectator. "Beijing is a very warm-hearted city with warmhearted people," he said. "I have only the best wishes for the Beijing Olympics."
Kim, meanwhile, said the Seoul Games provided an ideal springboard for the country's economic development, and that he thought "the same kind of thing will happen to Beijing".
Kim and Moon were among the 70 torchbearers in the ROK capital, thrilled about hosting the relay for the second time following Athens 2004.
Starting at the city's Olympic Park, the relay crossed Hannam Bridge and passed such local landmarks as Chunggaechun, Dongdaemoon (Great East Gate) and Insadong-gil.
Its original passage also included Sungnye Gate, the 600-year-old national treasure that collapsed after a man set fire to it in early February.
A one-hour celebration following the relay met with even more boisterous support, as fireworks lit the sky with colorful aspirations of harmony and hope en route to Pyongyang, where the relay is scheduled between 9 am and 4 pm today. The Airbus A330 crossed the 38th parallel and landed in the DPRK capital soon after the celebrations in Seoul.
Dubbed "The Journey of Harmony", the Beijing Olympics Torch Relay began along the traditional Silk Road route from Almaty, Kazakhstan on April 1 and then branched off to reach at least one stop in each of the inhabited continents. More than a handful of its 21 international legs had never hosted a relay for the Games.
Source: China Daily