Majestic Ship Brings Olympic Flame to France

Tens of thousands welcomed torch to Marseille
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 8, 2024 4:27 PM CDT
Olympic Torch Arrives in France
French swimmer Florent Manaudou holds the Olympic torch on the French 19th-century three-mast ship Belem as it arrives in the Old Port of Marseille, southern France, Wednesday May 8, 2024.   (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

Olympic swimmer Florent Manaudou became the first Olympic torch carrier in France after the Olympic flame arrived Wednesday in Marseille's Old Port on a majestic three-mast ship from Greece for the welcoming ceremony at sunset. The ship sailed into the port with the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, echoing from the embankment and a French Air force flyover with planes first drawing the five Olympic rings and then the red-blue-white colors of the nation's flag, the AP reports.

Manaudou carried the torch from a pontoon to mainland France as tens of thousands cheered and thousands of others waved from balconies and windows overlooking the festivities. "We can be proud," said President Emmanuel Macron, who attended the ceremony to welcome the torch. "The flame is on French soil," Macron said. "The games are coming to France and are entering the lives of the French people." The torch was lit in Greece last month before it was officially handed to France. It left Athens aboard a ship named Belem, which was first used in 1896, and spent 12 days at sea.

Security was tight, with around 8,000 police officers deployed around the harbor. Firefighters and bomb disposal squads were positioned around the city along with maritime police and anti-drone teams patrolling the city's waters and its airspace. The torch relay will start on Thursday in Marseille before heading to Paris through iconic places across the country, from the world-famous Mont Saint-Michel to D-Day landing beaches in Normandy and the Versailles Palace. The Olympic cauldron will be lit after the Games' opening ceremony on the River Seine on July 26.

(More 2024 Paris Olympics stories.)

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