Torchbearers from South Korea and Greece began the Gangwon 2024 Olympic Torch Tour in Athens ©Hellenic Olympic Committee

The Flame for the 2024 Youth Olympic Winter Games in Gangwon has been lit in Athens and is now on its way to South Korea to begin what organisers have called a "journey of solidarity."

Seventeen-year-old Greek biathlete and cross-country skier Maria Belli was the first to receive it in a ceremony conducted at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. 

Her compatriot, Alpine skier Apostolos Vougioukas, also participated in a short relay around the stadium.

Seventeen-year-old figure skater Kim Hyun-Gyeom and 16-year-old freestyle moguls skier Yun Shin-Ee both represented South Korea in the Relay.

"Watching the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games, the first Winter Olympic Games held in Korea, nurtured my dream and I am currently a member of the mogul ski national team and about to participate in Gangwon 2024," Yun said.

"I hope the flames that will ignite in Gangwon will be unforgettable memories in the hearts of all participating youth athletes."

Hellenic Olympic Committee President Spyros Capralos formally handed a safety lamp containing the Flame to Gangwon 2024.

"The birth of the sacred Flame along with its journey will once again send the universal and eternal message of peace and solidarity everywhere in the world," Capralos said.

"There is no doubt that sports and Olympism contribute to the creation of a better world, by promoting and strengthening dialogue, mutual understanding and unity, elements that are particularly necessary in today's world."

The Flame is set to arrive in Seoul on October 8, where Gangwon 2024 ambassadors and youth supporters are expected to welcome it.

"While the Flame we light together today is just the beginning, it will come to symbolise friendship, excellence and respect as it travels throughout the Republic of Korea," Gangwon 2024 co-President Jin Jong-oh said.

"We take immense pride in the fact that the "journey of solidarity" will engage and involve young people and inspire local communities, while also nurturing the growth of our aspiring athletes."

A special celebration is planned for Seoul City Plaza on October 11, where a ceremony featuring K-Pop stars is to mark 100 days until the Games begin.

"This will be a special opportunity to spread the Olympic spirit throughout the host nation ahead of the Youth Olympic Games, and is sure to bring back happy memories of the Olympic Flame’s journey across the Republic of Korea ahead of Pyeongchang 2018," Gangwon 2024 Coordination Commission head Hong Zhang said.

The Torch is to go through 23 cities across South Korea including Busan, Sejong, Jeju and Gwanju.

The Mudeungsan National Park, the Sejong National Arboretum and the Seongsan Ilchulbong volcanic rock formation also known as "sunrise peak" are also included on the itinerary.

The Flame for the 2024 Youth Olympic Winter Games was lit by High Priestess Xanthi Georgiou in Athens today ©Hellenic Olympic Committee
The Flame for the 2024 Youth Olympic Winter Games was lit by High Priestess Xanthi Georgiou in Athens today ©Hellenic Olympic Committee

The tour is scheduled to arrive in Gangwon, host province of the Games on November 7 and visit 18 cities including Goseong, Cheorwon, Samcheok, Pyeongchang and Gangneung. 

In each location, residents will have the chance to meet Games mascot Moongcho and try out sports featuring on the programme.

The Flame is due to arrive at the Opening Ceremony on January 19 2024.

The Flame had been kindled from the rays of the sun by Xanthi Georgiou, a Greek actress in the role of High Priestess of the goddess Hera.

She had lit the Flame for the 2020 Youth Olympic Winter Games in Lausanne and also performed the lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia for the Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 Olympics,

Although the Flame for the inaugural Singapore 2010 Youth Olympics was lit in Ancient Olympia, all subsequent Youth Olympic Flames have been ignited at the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens and styled as Torch "tours" as distinct from the Torch Relay for Olympic Games.