The Olympic Torch Relay begins with ceremony in Beijing

'Health-Joy-Energy' is the slogan for the relay that began on 2 February with a ceremony at the Beijing Olympic Forest Park, with more than 300 athletes, students, volunteers and community residents in attendance.

3 min By Sean McAlister
Luo Zhihuan
(Picture by 2022 Getty Images)

The Olympic Torch Relay of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 was launched at 9am this morning (2 February) during a ceremony at the Beijing Olympic Forest Park. The relay, whose slogan is 'Health-Joy-Energy', will take place over a three-day period, with around 1,200 torchbearers carrying the flame before the main cauldron is lit at the National Stadium on 4 February.

Han Zheng, head of the Steering Group for the Preparations of the 24th Olympic Winter Games, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, and Vice Premier of the State Council, lit the Olympic cauldron to announce the start of the relay. He then handed the torch to the first torchbearer, 80-year-old Luo Zhihuan, a former speed skater and first-ever winter sports world champion from People's Republic of China.

During the ceremony, a speech was given by Cai Qi, President of the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee, member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, and Secretary of the CPC Beijing Municipal Committee.

“The Olympic flame, a symbol of light, solidarity, peace and friendship, will light the torch of the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, add its brilliance to Beijing, the host city of both the Summer and Winter Olympic Games, and write a new chapter of the Olympic Movement,” he said.

1941 World Speed Skating Champion Luo Zhihuan
1941 World Speed Skating Champion Luo Zhihuan (2022 Getty Images)

IOC President Thomas Bach then relayed a message via video in which he outlined the historic significance of the Games that begin in Beijing on 4 February.

"The Olympic flame will show everyone that Beijing is ready to make history, becoming the first-ever host of both summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games. This is the timeless message that the Olympic flame will send from China to the world: we can only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger, if we stand together," he said.

The torchbearers range in age from 86 years old to the youngest at 14 years old, and are from all walks of life, including former NBA player and now president of the Chinese Basketball Association, Yao Ming.

After the ceremony, Luo spoke with emotion about what it meant to him to carry the Olympic flame, saying: “Today, my dream comes true. I have carried the Olympic flame as a representative of the first-generation of Chinese winter sports athletes.

"I was not able to participate in the Olympic Winter Games when I was at my peak as an athlete. It is a regret. This year, I am able to pass on the fighting spirit of the older generation of athletes in my home country."

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