Olympic torch starts its trek to South Korea for 2018 Winter Olympics

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A high priestess passes the Olympic flame at the Temple of Hera during a lighting ceremony on Tuesday. Getty Images

The lighting of the Olympic torch dates back to the 1936 Berlin Summer Games, and on Tuesday the tradition continued for the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. It marks the beginning of the countdown to the Olympics, and it was lit in rainy weather with a backup flame due to inclement weather. Over the course of the next week, the torch will make its way to Pyeongchang.

The torch is normally lit with a reflector that redirects the Greek sun, but overcast weather would not allow it. It's an ominous start to an event that has been shrouded in controversy, as South Korea's neighbors to the north are in the midst of flexing their nuclear arsenal with ballistic missile tests. 

"We want the international community to understand that we are committed to hosting a safe and secure Olympic Winter Games," said Games chief Lee Hee-beom, per Reuters

President Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, echoed the sentiment. "The Olympic Games are sacred and universal," he said. "They stand above and beyond all the differences that divide us. In our fragile world that seems to be drifting apart, the Olympic Games have the power to unite humanity in all its diversity."

Apostolos Aggelis was the first torch-bearer, handing it off to South Korean Manchester United player Park Ji-sung. "This is bigger than Seoul [Summer Olympics] 1988. These are the largest Winter Olympics ever and I am excited to be part of it," Park said.

The flame is due to arrive in South Korea on Nov. 1 for the beginning of the domestic torch relay. The Games themselves will commence Feb. 9.

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