By Karolos Grohmann
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach took part in the final stages of the Pyeongchang Olympics torch relay ahead of the opening ceremony on Friday, the official sounding upbeat about the first Asian Winter Games outside Japan.
Bach, a former Olympic fencing champion, ran the torch relay early in the morning in Pyeongchang, receiving the Olympic flame from a local teenager, whom the German also invited to the ceremony later in the day.
Dressed in an official uniform and a thick winter coat, Bach waited for the flame near the IOC hotel, with the temperature hovering around minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 Fahrenheit).
He posed for selfies with visitors to the Alpensia Olympic Village and exchanged badges as he waited for the flame.
He then jogged several hundred meters in light snow before passing the torch to United Nations General Assembly President Miroslav Lacjak.
“It is a great emotion and anticipation,” Bach told reporters. “This promises to be fantastic sport. It will be an excellent Olympic Games.”
The flame will be lit during the opening ceremony inside the Olympic Stadium, the torch completing its journey from ancient Olympia in Greece last October and reaching its destination after more than 100 days moving around South Korea.
Preparations for the Games were rocky in the initial years after Pyeongchang was awarded the Games on its third attempt in 2011, with construction delays, changes in leadership and financial problems among the early issues.
However, organizers have managed to complete construction in time for the Feb. 9-25 Olympics.
“I am sure Korea will show all its culture and welcome all the world to this festival. I wish these Games to be remembered as a great festival on a human scale,” Bach added. “That is the message we want to get across.”
Bach also briefly chatted with Games chief Lee Hee-beom, who was set to run with the flame a little later.
“It is finally time,” Lee said. “We start tonight after seven long years. We can also say that God has helped us with the weather as it will be warmer this evening.”
Temperatures have stayed below freezing in the past days, dropping to as low as minus 21C and causing headaches for organizers, but the forecast for Friday evening suggests there will be milder weather in the region.
“We are now ready and look forward to the start and to successful Games,” Lee said.
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; Editing by John O’Brien)