The Russian Olympic torch relay will begin in Moscow on Monday, eight days after the flame was taken from the Ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece.
The flame wrapped up its Greek journey in and around Athens on Friday and Saturday. The official handover was held at the 1896 Olympic site of Panathinaiko Stadium. A few dozen activists staged a peaceful protest against Russia’s anti-gay law, according to The Associated Press.
On Monday, the longest Olympic torch relay will begin in Russia. It will cover 40,000 miles and also go on trips to the North Pole and the International Space Station before the Sochi cauldron is lit at the opening ceremony Feb. 7.
On Sunday, Russian president Vladimir Putin will take part in a ceremony at Red Square in Moscow, welcoming the Olympic flame to the capital, according to R-Sport.
The Moscow leg of the torch relay will last two days. The torchbearers will include two-time Olympic hockey champion Slava Fetisov and seven-time Olympic gymnastics medalist Svetlana Khorkina.
Here are some photos from the Olympic flame’s trip to Athens:
The North Korean member of the International Olympic Committee believes a North Korean delegation will be at the PyeongChang Olympics, according to Kyodo News.
“There is no reason why we won’t come and no reason why we can’t,” IOC member Chang Ung said last week at the Asian Winter Games in Japan, according to the news agency. “We will proceed according to the Olympic Charter.”
An IOC spokesman previously said that the first step toward possible North Korean participation in the PyeongChang Olympics would be the North Korean Olympic Committee’s response to its invitation to the Winter Games sent out two weeks ago.
The IOC sends invitations to National Olympic Committees around the world coinciding with one year out to an Olympics.
However, it’s not a certainty that North Korea will qualify any athletes for the Winter Games. Despite winning at least four medals at every Summer Games since boycotting Seoul 1988, it didn’t have any athletes at the Sochi Olympics and just two at Vancouver 2010.
North Korea has zero top performing international winter sports athletes and few who even appear at major competitions.
North Korean short track speed skater Choe Un Song ranks No. 123 in the world after appearing in one World Cup this season in Beijing. A pairs figure skating team is ranked No. 54. A different North Korean pairs team missed a Sochi berth by 1.5 points at the last qualifying competition.
Nations without qualified athletes are still able to enter one man and one woman in the Summer Olympics in swimming and track and field. But no such exception applies in the Winter Games.
The IOC has given no indication that an exception could be made to invite a non-qualified North Korean athlete to PyeongChang.