Olympic torch begins first-ever relay in N Korea | world | Hindustan Times
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Olympic torch begins first-ever relay in N Korea

world Updated: Apr 28, 2008 09:20 IST

The Olympic torch on Monday launched its first-ever run in authoritarian North Korea, where the flame was assured of a trouble-free trip unlike other stops worldwide.

An attentive and peaceful crowd of thousands watched the start of the relay in Pyongyang, some waving Chinese flags, in live footage from broadcaster APTN. The event was presided over by the head of the country's rubber-stamp parliament who often acts as a ceremonial state leader, Kim Yong Nam.

The North, an ally of communist neighbour China, has been critical of disruptions to the torch relay elsewhere and has supported Beijing in its crackdown against violent protests in Tibet.

Kim passed the torch to the first runner Pak Du Ik, who played on North Korea's 1966 World Cup soccer team that made a historic run to the quarterfinals. As he began the 20-km route through Pyongyang, thousands more cheering people lined city streets waving pink paper flowers and small flags with the Beijing Olympics logo.

The relay began from beneath the large sculpted flame that tops the obelisk of the Juche Tower, which commemorates the national ideology of "self-reliance" created by the country's late founding President Kim Il Sung, father of current leader Kim Jong Il. The younger Kim was not seen at the event.

The torch arrived earlier on Monday in North Korea by plane from rival South Korea, where China's treatment of North Korean refugees sparked protests against the relay.