BEIJING, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- The torch relay for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games started here on Wednesday, just two days before the Games officially opens.
Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng, also a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee, lit the torch from a cauldron at the launch ceremony held at the Olympic Forest Park, then handed it to 80-year-old Luo Zhihuan, China's first winter sports world champion.
"In just a few days, the best winter sport athletes of the world will gather in Beijing. They will compete fiercely against each other for Olympic glory. At the same time, they will live peacefully together under one roof at the Olympic Village," International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said in a video message.
The torch relay has been scaled down and is being held under strict precautionary measures due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some 1200 participants will take part in the relay, which will last three days across three competition zones and culminate with the lighting of the cauldron at the opening ceremony on Friday night.
Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming and astronaut Jing Haipeng were among the first to carry the flame on Wednesday.
The first day takes the theme "Showcasing Beijing as a dual Olympic city" as the flame makes its way to the Beijing Winter Olympic Park.
The Winter Olympics will take place from Feb. 4 to 20.