The Olympic torch relay in Pyongyang saw North Koreans wave flags, China's official Xinhua news agency claimed Monday, while their cheers ¡°shook the sky.¡± The torch relay in the North Korean capital was the 18th leg and so far sole undisturbed leg of the global relay.
It kicked off at around 10:15 a.m. on Monday at the plaza in front of the Juche Tower at a ceremony chaired by no. 2 leader Kim Yong-nam, chairman of the Presidium of North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly, and was watched by tens of thousands of residents. The torch relay kick-off ceremony was held in a sea of Chinese and North Korean flags, songs, dances and cheers.
A North Korea's torch runner, second left, carries the Olympic torch in Pyongyang on Monday. The Olympic torch launched its first-ever run Monday in North Korea, where the flame was assured of a trouble-free trip unlike other stops worldwide. /AP
Pak Du-ik (72), a former national football player who scored a goal against Italy in the 1966 World Cup, was the first to bear the torch. The last torch bearer was Jong Song-ok, the women¡¯s marathon champion in the 1966 World Athletics Championships. Xinhua reported most of the 80 torch bearers were "heroes of North Korea" and famous athletes.
The torch bearers ran a 20 km route from the tower to downtown Pyongyang along the Daedong River. The route covered Pyongyang Grand Theater, May Day Stadium, Pyongyang Stadium, North Korea-China Friendship Tower, Arch of Triumph, and the final destination, Kim Il-sung Stadium. Hundreds of thousands of Pyongyang citizens lined city streets waving flags of North Korea and China and shouting cheers.
Reporting from Beijing, AFP said North Korea, an ally of neighbor China, has been critical of Tibetan secessionists' activities. There were no protests, which are strictly banned in the totalitarian North.
Before the Olympic flame arrived in Pyongyang, Li Chong-sok, vice chairman of North Korea's torch relay organizing committee, in a press conference vowed to ¡°stun the whole world."