The Olympic flame has returned to South Korea's capital Seoul ©Pyeongchang 2018

The Olympic flame is back in the South Korean capital Seoul, almost 30 years after it first visited the city for the Summer Games of 1988.

Freestyle skier Park Hee-jin, a competitor in halfpipe at the Sochi 2014 Games, was the first to receive the Torch in the Sangam district to begin three days of celebration in the city.

Korean football legend Cha Bum-kun, named as the Asian player of the 20th century, took the flame at the stadium used for the 2002 World Cup and Park Seung-hi, a double short track gold medallist at the Sochi Games, was also a bearer.

In what was claimed as a first, five members of the KT Rolster League of Legends esports team also carried the flame in succession. 

They immediately tweeted pictures of their participation.

Although the temperatures dipped below zero, many took the chance to recall the 1988 Games, described at the time as the "best ever".

Japan's Daichi Suzuki has special reason to remember those Games. 

He won 100 metres backstroke gold and returned as an honoured guest to carry the flame.

The Seoul 1988 and Pyeongchang 2018 mascots met each other during the Relay ©Pyeongchang 2018
The Seoul 1988 and Pyeongchang 2018 mascots met each other during the Relay ©Pyeongchang 2018

There was even a chance for 1988 mascot Hodori to meet 2018 counterpart Soohorang, a snow tiger.

At the Gyeongbokgung Palace in the centre of the capital, a bearer wore the traditional red costume worn by the Kings of the Joseon dynasty as he was carried through the grounds in a ceremonial chair.

"The enactment of a royal parade is highly symbolic, it means all people of Korea are involved and celebrating," said Lee Hong-bae, who played the role of the King.

Some 300 escorts were dressed as "courtiers" and accompanied the stately procession.

Organisers have insisted the Pyeongchang Games will strengthen ties between Asian nations.

Kang Mi, a Chinese interpreter who has made her home in South Korea, was a Torchbearer in Seoul.

"It is a ray of hope," she said.

"Korea and China are experiencing some difficulties at present but the 2022 Winter Olympics are in Beijing and I hope the two countries will recover their harmonious relationships until the warmth of the Torch that brightens Pyeongchang is delivered to Beijing."

Earlier in the week, the flame had been in Incheon where it had first arrived on Korean soil back in November.

Japanese figure skater Shizuka Arakawa won gold at the 2006 Turin Games and exchanged the flame with compatriot Daisuke Takahashi, a bronze medallist from Vancouver 2010.

"The Torch was heavy but it was fun," he said.

After another rest day the cavalcade heads North. 

Torchbearers show some nifty footwork during the Relay ©Pyeongchang 2018
Torchbearers show some nifty footwork during the Relay ©Pyeongchang 2018

The fifth and final theme of the relay is "peace".

An entire leg of the Torch Relay will be by bicycle in Paju just south of the 38th parallel at Panmunjom, the boundary between North and South Korea.

The idea is that the two wheels of the cycle work in harmony. 

This stage of the Relay coincides with the arrival of Olympic officials from North and South Korea in Lausanne for a summit with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach to broker a deal for the two Koreas to participate together in Pyeongchang.

Among those taking part will be South Korean National Olympic Committee President Lee Kee Heung, who carried the Torch in Seoul.