Olympic flame lands at Marseille Old Port amid fiery atmosphere

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Olympic flame lands at Marseille Old Port amid fiery atmosphere
Marseille (France): The Olympic flame of Paris 2024 arrived at the renowned Old Port of Marseille amid the radiant hues of the sunset on Wednesday evening.

More than 150,000 spectators gathered for the grand ceremony as France’s Olympic swimming champion Florent Manaudou, carrying the torch, walked down from the majestic three-masted ship Belem under the watchful eyes of French President Emmanuel Macron.

An adopted Marseillais, Manaudou symbolically passed the torch to Nantenin Keita, Paralympic champion and four-time medalist in the 100m, 200m, and 400m. Mirroring the event in Athens, where French Olympic and Paralympic champions Gabriella Papadakis and Beatrice Hess passed the torch, Paris 2024 chose two Olympic and Paralympic athletes to carry the Flame to Marseille. This first handover on French soil symbolizes Paris 2024’s ambition to unify the Olympic and Paralympic Games, reports Xinhua.

After being cheered by the crowd, Keita handed the torch to the singer Jul, another Marseille native, who lit the cauldron on the central stage of the Old Port.

“We can be proud,” said Macron. “The flame is on French soil. The Games are coming to France and are entering the lives of the French people.”

The Belem arrived near the shore of Marseille in the late morning and then finished a six-hour coastal parade before finally sailing into the Old Port. The parade is accompanied by 1,024 local boats, and workshops are organized along the coast to celebrate the arrival.

“The return of the Games to our country will be a fantastic celebration,” said Tony Estanguet, president of Paris 2024.

A series of artistic performances and exhibitions, starting from 5:00 p.m., was held at the Old Port as the official theme music of Paris 2024 was revealed.

With the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” echoing from the embankment and Patrouille de France, the country’s elite air display team, performing spectacularly by creating patterns of the Olympic rings and the French flag in the sky with colored smoke, the ship docked on a pontoon resembling an athletics track. Manaudou then carried the torch to mainland France.

“We are extremely proud,” Mayor of Marseille Benoit Payan said. “This is where it all begins…Tonight, the people of Marseille won the first gold medal of these Olympic Games.”

The Olympic flame for the Paris 2024 Games was lit in Greece on April 16, before being officially handed to France at the Panathenaic Stadium on April 26. It left Athens aboard the Belem the next morning and completed a 12-day voyage before arriving in Marseille.

The torch relay will start on Thursday, and more than 10,000 people will participate before the flame reaches Paris through iconic locations across the country, from Mont-Saint-Michel to the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy and the Palace of Versailles.

The Olympic cauldron will be lit at the opening ceremony, which will be held on the River Seine on July 26.

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