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Olympic flame arrives in France's Marseille by ship

May 8, 2024

A ship bearing the flame has docked in the southern port of Marseille. Athletes, public figures and ordinary citizens will now carry the symbol of Olympic tradition to Paris in a relay across the country.

The Olympic Flame is seen in a cauldron as a woman in traditional Greek costume stands in front of an Olympic flag
The Olympic Flame is a symbol of the spirit of sportsmanship propagated by the gamesImage: Stefanos Kyriazis/NurPhoto/picture alliance

After 12 days at sea, the Olympic flame has arrived in France from Greece. Tens of thousands of onlookers were on hand at the southern French port of Marseille to greet the crew of the 19th-century three-mast sailing ship, Belem, which transported the symbolic cargo from the ancient home of the  Olympic Games to the shores of the host of this summer's event.

The flame was carried from board by Olympic gold-medalist swimmer Florent Manaudou.

"With the arrival of the flame, the country enters the games," French President Emmanuel Macron said at the city's old port.

Paris 2024 Olympics Organizing Committee President Tony Estanguet said the flame's arrival is grounds for a "fantastic celebration."

"As a former athlete, I know how important the start of a competition is," said Estanguet, himself a three-time Olympic gold-medal-winning canoeist. "That is why we chose Marseille, because it's definitely one of the cities most in love with sports."

The sailing ship Belem seen in the Corinth Canal
The three-mast barque Belem sailed through the deep Corinth Canal in Greece to reach open seas and eventually, FranceImage: Nicolas Koutsokostas/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Police show up in force in Marseille 

With safety a constant concern for French authorities, some 8,000 police were deployed to watch over the 50,000 spectators that turned out in Marseille, France's second-largest city.

"We are employing various measures, notably the elite National Gendarmerie Intervention Group unit, which will be present at the torch relay from beginning to end," French Interior Ministry spokesperson Camille Chaize said, commenting on security threats such as potential terror attacks.

France races to bolster security ahead of Olympics

Wednesday evening will see further celebrations in the city, which will include a French Air Force flyover.

"It's a monumental day," said Marseille Mayor Yannick Ohanessian, "and we have been working hard for visitors and residents of Marseille to enjoy this historical moment."

The flame will now make its way passing from hand to hand through the country. Athletes, public figures and ordinary citizens will carry it past French heritage sites such as the famous Mont Saint Michel abbey, the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy and the palace of Versailles. Eventually, it will be used to light the Olympic cauldron in Paris during the games' opening ceremonies on July 26.

The exact location for this part of the ceremony has been kept secret due to security concerns.

js/dj (AP, Reuters)