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First South Korean Olympic torch bearer announced

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Park Ji-sung, a retired Manchester United midfielder, will be the first South Korean torch bearer for the PyeongChang Olympic torch relay on Oct. 24.

The ceremonial flame lighting will take place in Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the ancient Olympics.

The first torch bearer there will be a Greek, as is tradition, followed by Park.

The flame will later fly from Greece to Incheon International Airport near Seoul for a 101-day trek through South Korea before the Feb. 9 Opening Ceremony.

Park, now 36, played for South Korea at the 2000 Sydney Olympics at age 19 before appearing in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

Winter Games organizers published a video outlining the torch relay route.

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MORE: North Korea qualifies for PyeongChang Olympics

PyeongChang Olympic cauldron unveiled

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The PyeongChang Olympic cauldron is a white tower visible atop one of the corners of the pentagonal Olympic Stadium that will host the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9.

It is the most traditional cauldron setup since the 2008 Beijing Games.

In 2010, the Vancouver Winter Games had two cauldrons — one inside in the ceremonies venue and one outside in the city for the public to view.

The London 2012 flame could not be seen outside the Olympic Stadium. It was lit in the center of the stadium and then moved to a side area.

The PyeongChang cauldron will not be moved, organizers said.

The Sochi 2014 cauldron was in the middle of the Olympic Park but visible through an opening at the north end of the ceremonies stadium (and also tall enough to be seen from the stadium).

Rio had two cauldrons — one lit at the Opening Ceremony inside the Maracanã — and another in the city for the public to view.

So, who will light the PyeongChang cauldron on Feb. 9?

“If I tell you, I have to kill you,” a PyeongChang 2018 press operations official joked two weeks ago. “I really can’t tell you about this. I don’t want to spoil the show.”

Most believe it will be Yuna Kim, the wildly popular 2010 Olympic figure skating champion and ambassador for PyeongChang 2018.

“She has been very, very instrumental promoting the Games,” the PyeongChang 2018 official said. “She has done a tremendous job. She’s been with us at every important event promoting the Games. We really appreciate all her hard work.”

At the previous Olympics in South Korea, the 1988 Seoul Games, three South Koreans lit the cauldron simultaneously — a teacher, a high school student and a marathoner at those Games.

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South Korea Olympic officials relieved North Korea qualified

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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korean Olympic officials said they were pleased after a North Korean figure skating pair became the nation’s first athletes to qualify for the PyeongChang Olympics, hoping it might help improve strained relations between the countries.

Tension has been rising recently due to North Korea’s nuclear test and multiple missile launches that also triggered an escalating war of words between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and U.S. President Donald Trump.

South Korea has been hoping North Korea takes part in the Winter Games.

Sung Baikyou of PyeongChang’s organizing committee said Saturday the achievement by North Korean skaters could make it easier to persuade the North to participate.

“It widens the room for more talks regarding North Korea’s potential Olympic participation, including inviting its organized cheering groups,” which Pyongyang frequently sends to international events to support its athletes, Sung said.

It’s still uncertain whether North Korea would allow the skaters to compete in PyeongChang, a ski resort town 50 miles south of the heavily-armed inter-Korean border.

North Korea boycotted the 1988 Summer Olympics in South Korea’s capital Seoul and has ignored the South’s proposals for dialogue in recent months as it accelerated its nuclear and missile development.

The IOC is trying to calm concern about the PyeongChang Games, but France has said its Olympic team will not travel to South Korea if its safety cannot be guaranteed.

IOC President Thomas Bach has expressed hope North Korea will take part.

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