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Olympic torch begins Covid-shortened trek past Beijing landmarks

Former 1941 world figure skating champion Luo Zhihuan carries the torch as he runs the first stage of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics Torch Relay in front of the Olympic Tower on February 2, 2022 at the Olympic Park in Beijing.

Kevin Frayer | Getty Images

Beijing started its Winter Olympics torch relay early Wednesday, with Chinese basketball great and Olympian Yao Ming among the first to carry the flame on a journey that will last only three days due to Covid-19 curbs.

The relay will lead the flame past landmarks, including the Great Wall of China, and is far more modest than the worldwide event leading up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, which was disrupted by protests along the way.

Due to Covid-19, only select members of the public will attend the torch relay.

The doctors on 4.-20. February takes place inside a “closed loop” bubble that shuts off athletes and other Olympic staff from the public, and the events will only be attended by select groups of people.

“It’s an accident, of course, but what can you do ?,” said Georgios Iliopoulos, Greece’s ambassador to China and one of the torchbearers, when asked if he was worried the 2022 Games would be remembered as “corona “. BEER.”

“You can not stop life and we are doing the best we can to continue with what we have to deal with. The most important thing is that we stick together on this and leave it behind us as soon as possible,” he told reporters.

The flame, which was flown from Greece in October, will travel to competition zones, including Zhangjiakou in neighboring Hebei province, before ending its journey by lighting the Olympic boiler at Friday’s opening ceremony.

Wednesday’s event began under clear blue skies in Beijing, when Chinese Deputy Prime Minister Han Zheng lit a torch from a kettle in the form of a traditional ritual vessel known as a zun, and then handed it to 80-year-old Luo Zhihuan, who as China’s speed skater was China’s first world champion in winter sports.

More than 1,000 torchbearers will participate in the relay.

Asked during the freezing morning how he felt as an Olympic torchbearer, Yao replied, “Pretty cold because the two previous times were for the Summer Olympics. But it’s hot to keep a flame in the winter.”

Publication: CNBC parent NBCUniversal owns NBC Sports and NBC Olympics. NBC Olympics is the US broadcasting rights holder for all summer and winter games until 2032.

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