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Beijing Winter Olympics

Winter Olympics torch relay starts hours ahead of first events

Run, scaled down due to COVID, to pass Great Wall before Friday opening ceremony

Jing Haipeng, a Chinese astronaut, carries the Olympic torch after the relay launch ceremony in Beijing on Feb. 2.   © Reuters

ZHANGJIAKOU, China -- The torch relay for the Beijing Winter Olympics got underway on Wednesday, in a symbolic moment for the host amid COVID-19 concerns and international controversy.

The relay kicked off ahead of the first competitions, scheduled for Wednesday evening, and Friday's official opening ceremony. Luo Zhihuan, who helped put China on the global winter sports map by winning the speedskating world championships in Japan in 1963, carried the torch from the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing. Also running were astronaut Jing Haipeng and aerospace engineer Ye Peijian.

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