ATHENS (Reuters) – Champions League winner Park Ji-sung will be the first South Korean to carry the flame for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics after the torch lighting ceremony in Olympia next week, the Greek Olympic committee said on Thursday.
Park, 36, who won a string of titles with Manchester United and Eindhoven before retiring, will be the second torchbearer in Olympia, site of the ancient Greek Olympics, after Greece’s Nordic skier Apostolos Aggelis at the start of the Greek relay.
The ceremony, where a torch is lit by the sun’s rays using a parabolic mirror, will start the countdown to the Feb. 9-25 Games and South Korean organizers will receive the flame in a handover ceremony in Athens on Oct. 31.
The flame will then travel to South Korea for the Games torch relay run across the country.
The Pyeongchang Olympics will be Asia’s first Winter Olympics staged outside Japan and the first of three consecutive Summer and Winter Games on the continent.
Tokyo will host the Summer Games of 2020 and Beijing will stage the 2022 Winter Olympics.
South Korean preparations have been hampered by delays and an escalating crisis with North Korea.
Tensions have soared following a series of weapons tests by North Korea and a string of increasingly bellicose exchanges between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by Peter Rutherford)