Australia, Canada bolster support for PyeongChang

Australia, Canada bolster support for PyeongChang

Australian Ambassador to Korea James Choi, right, raises his arms after delivering the Olympic flame to Sam Hammington, an Australian entertainer in Korea, during the Olympic torch relay for the PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in downtown Seoul, Sunday. / Yonhap

Ambassadors take part in Olympic torch relay

By Yi Whan-woo

James Choi
Eric Walsh
The Australian and Canadian embassies in Korea are stepping up their support for the PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, slated for Feb. 9 to 25 and March 9 to 18, respectively.

On Sunday, Australian Ambassador to Korea James Choi participated in the Olympic torch relay in downtown Seoul and also joined a three-kilometer run to wish success for Korea's first Winter Games.

Meanwhile, Canadian Ambassador to Korea Eric Walsh will run as a torchbearer on Jan. 19 in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, before attending the Imjin Classic 2018, a friendly hockey game co-hosted by the embassy and the Paju city government in partnership with the PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG).

The 101-day torch relay started in Incheon on Nov. 1 and features 7,500 runners. Choi carried the Olympic flame near Anguk Station before passing it to Sam Hammington, the first Australian to become a Korean TV sensation. The ambassador later joined a three-kilometer run, titled "Winter Fun Run! 2018 with Ambassador James Choi," around Gyeongbok Palace.

The Australian Embassy co-organized the event with the K-Aussie Network, a group of individuals here who have studied, worked or lived in Australia, in support of the PyeongChang Olympics.

"Australia values its strong and important bilateral relationship with the Republic of Korea," Choi said. "The Australian government hopes that the PyeongChang Winter Olympics and Paralympics will indeed be remembered as the Olympics of peace."

The Korean-born ambassador said he also conveys his best wishes to Australian and Korean athletes who will compete in PyeongChang.

Canadian Ambassador to Korea Eric Walsh, sixth from the right in the front row, joins the staff in front of the embassy in Jung-gu, downtown Seoul, during a ceremony to support the PyeongChang Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, Jan. 7.
/ Courtesy of Canadian Embassy

In Paju, Walsh will carry the Olympic torch before joining the Imjin Classic, an annual hockey game marking the end of the 1950-53 Korean War and honoring the Canadian veterans of the war. The ambassador will be among four torchbearers in the Jan. 19 relay, including Claude Charland, a Canadian veteran.

POCOG President and CEO Lee Hee-beom, Acting Paju Mayor Kim Jun-tae and Patriots and Veterans Affairs Minister Pi Woo-jin will be guests during the Imjin Classic 2018, which will take place at Yulgok Wetland Park from noon to 4:30 p.m.

The event re-enacts a friendly match in 1952 on the frozen Imjin River between battle-weary Canadian soldiers from Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and the Royal 22nd Regiment, a French-speaking unit known by its colloquial name, Vandoos.

Canada sent more than 26,000 troops, the third-largest contingent, to U.N. forces during the Korean War. Its major battles included the 1951 Battle of Kapyong and the 1952 Battle of Imjin River.

This year's match will be between Canada and Korea. The Canadian side will be comprised of active members of PPCLI and Vandoos, while hockey players from Yonsei University and Korea University will represent Korea.

"The 2018 Imjin Classic is a tribute to the Canadian soldiers who played hockey on the frozen Imjin River during the Korean War," Walsh said. "As we remember our soldiers' contribution to the peaceful and prosperous country South Korea has become today, we look forward to the 2018 PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Games where athletes from Canada and the rest of the world will celebrate excellence in sport."

POCOG President Lee called the Imjin Classic a "celebration of teamwork and friendly rivalries" and that they are what the Winter Olympics are about.

He also said he hopes many Canadians who will join the Imjin Classic 2018 will visit PyeongChang and support their athletes during the Games.