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WE CARRY THE OLYMPIC TORCH - Ben Clatworthy in Busan, South Korea
Monday November 6, 2017 - Email this article to a friend

He's done it. PlanetSKI's Ben Clatworthy has taken part in the Winter Olympic torch relay in South Korea and what an experience it was.



There is a party atmosphere in Busan - the Olympic torch relay is in town and last Sunday Britain led the way.

Winter Olympic gold medallist Amy Williams carried the torch along with Ellie Simmonds, one of Britain's most decorated female Paralympians, and Susie Rodgers who won a gold swimming at the Rio Paralympics last year.

And me.

Torch relay teamPlanetSKI's Ben with Ellie Simmonds & Susie Rodgers















It was a day of celebration in the South Korean city as the torch snaked its way around the downtown district. It was the fifth day of the relay and there are now fewer than 100 days until the torch will arrive at the opening ceremony of the Pyeongchang Olympics.

The day started early with the Britons scheduled to run first, at 8am, in the heavily choreographed relay.

There were a myriad instructions and rules from how to "kiss" - the moment when the flame is passed from runner to runner - and exactly where to walk.

Nerves were running high on the bus while outside the party ramped up.

On the bus for the torch relayBen on the bus


















Our number one concern? What on earth if we drop it. Our Olympic mittens were less than grippy and the torch heavier than we expected - over 1kg.

Even the Olympians were showing their nerves.

Torch relay teamNervous Olympians















"We were chatting away on the bus, but as soon as I started running I thought ‘oh my god, I have the Olympic flame'," Amy Williams told PlanetSKI.

Williams, who won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, also carried the torch at the 2012 Games.

Torch relay teamAmy Williams (left) with other members of the relay team















The relay is meticulously planned and flanked by a large security detail.

The parade is lively, with levels of energy only South Koreans could maintain for hours on end.

The caravan of floats is impressive with the Games' sponsors, Samsung - the South Korean tech-giant - leading the parade with live music and energetic fanfare.

So how did it go?

I'd been worried about dropping the torch and nervous in the build-up. It is, after all, not every day you carry something so important.

See my earlier report as I prepared for the big day:

Adrenaline pumping and decked in a shiny shell suit, I stepped off the bus to the cheers of the euphoric crowd.

There were queues of people wanting to grab a selfie with me and try to get their hands on my torch (strictly forbidden) and bobble hat.

Hundreds of snaps later and finally the parade arrived. I "kissed" my torch with the previous runner and that was it.

The Olympic flame was in my hands.

Ben Clatworthy with the Olympic torchHang on to that torch!


















Security staff flanked me, police bikes followed close behind and the crowds cheered.

Except this was no run. Or a jog.

Busan traffic, even early on a Sunday morning, is notoriously bad. There would be no running, just a steady walk for my 250 metres.

As experiences go, carrying the flame is hard to beat.

There is something special about the Olympics and their ability to bring people together, even in the testing new world we live in.

Ticket sales for the Pyeongchang Games have been slow and some nations have expressed concern about sending athletes amid the heightened tensions with North Korea.

Officials insist the rumours of boycotts have been exaggerated by the press and say the Games will be a sell-out, although there are high hopes that the relay will drum up further excitement.

There is certainly more enthusiasm compared with my visit a few years ago.

Back then even ski resort bosses seemed sceptical. The mood is now changing. South Korea is a nation that can put on a show - and 2018 will be one hell of a year.

"Amy, Susie and I all know how it feels to be on the podium and know the flame will go on to create someone's dreams," Ellie Simmonds said.

Ellie SimmondsEllie Simmonds with the torch




















But that won't be until February and there are still some serious miles to cover.

And more breaking torch relay news:

GB Park & Pipe snowboarder Jamie Nicholls also made a flying visit to South Korea to take part in the torch relay.

He put together this video for his You Tube channel.

See here for the main PlanetSKI news page with all the latest stories from the mountains.

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