The Beijing 2022 Torch Relay will visit each Olympic zone over three days © Getty Images

The Beijing 2022 Olympic Flame has begun its domestic journey to the Beijing National Stadium for Friday’s Opening Ceremony.

The relay was set in motion by Hang Zheng, Vice Premier of the State Council and head of the steering group of the Games, who lit the Flame from the cauldron fashioned in the shape of a "zun", a traditional Chinese vessel for holding wine.

He handed the Flame to former speed skating star Luo Zhihuan, China’s first world champion in 1963.

Luo set a world record to win the men’s 1500m gold at the World Speed Skating Championships in an era when China was not part of the Olympic movement.

"Today, my dream comes true as I have carried the Olympic Flame as a representative of the first-generation of Chinese winter sports athletes," said Luo, now 80 years of age.

Beijing is the first city to host the Summer and Winter Olympics © Getty Images
Beijing is the first city to host the Summer and Winter Olympics © Getty Images

"I was not able to participate in the Winter Olympic Games when I was at my peak as an athlete which is a regret."

Some 300 people were permitted to watch the start of the relay including athletes, students, volunteers and local residents.

"We believe that the Olympic Flame will bring us confidence, warmth, hope and dispel the gloom of the pandemic," Beijing 2022 President Cai Qi said.

"The timeless message that the Olympic Flame will send from China to the world is, we can only go faster, we can only aim higher, we can only become stronger, if we stand together," International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said through a video message.

A total of 132 torchbearers took part in a leg which took the Flame over a distance of around 10 kilometres around the Beijing Forest Olympic Park.

They included space technician Ye Peijian, technical advisor at the Chinese Academy of Space Technology and academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

"I can’t help but think of the day when I was overseas and learned that China took part in the 1984 Olympic Games," Ye said.

"I’m thrilled to see that China has grown rapidly and become prosperous. I want to show the spirit of China’s space industry."

Astronaut Ji Haipeng was also chosen to carry the Torch.

Yao Ming, now China Basketball Association President, provided a link with the last time Beijing had hosted the Games.

He had been China’s flag bearer at the 2008 Opening Ceremony.

Ceremony director Zhang Yimou also had a brief respite from preparing for Friday’s Opening Ceremony.

Beijing Chaoyang Hospital vice-president Tong Zhaohui took part in the relay as a representative of COVID-19 frontline workers.

In the afternoon, 436 torchbearers ran through the Beijing Olympic Winter Park and Shougang Park.

An underwater exchange between an amphibious robot and an underwater "variable" robot was a much anticipated event.

"It was possible to see the magic scene of the fire burning in water, but also appreciate the green concept of the torch designer," relay officials said.

83-year-old Shan Zhaojian, former secretary general of the China Ski Association, and five-time world short track champion Liu Qiuhong also carried the Torch.

Zhang Li, designer of the Big Air venue at Shougang Park also took the Flame.

Locals performed a show entitled "Golden Lions on Snow and Chinese Dragons" accompanied by gongs and drums as the Flame passed by.

The relay will continue for a further two days and is heading to the mountains at Zhangjiakou for the next phase.