Olympic Flame Lands in France

Olympic Flame Lands in France
Olympic Flame Lands in France

The Olympic flame arrived in France at Marseille on board a 19th century ship in front of 150,000 spectators for a ceremony that posed a first major security test for organizers of the 2024 Paris Games.

The flame was brought to the southern French port from Greece on the three-masted Belem, 79 days before the Olympics began.

As the ship entered Marseille's Old Port with hundreds of small boats trailing behind, planes from the Patrouille de France display team traced the Olympic rings in the sky before they returned to paint the red, white and blue of the French flag.

Fireworks tore into the sky as the Belem docked after its 12-day voyage from Greece, where the flame was lit in ancient Olympia on April 16.

Olympic gold medal-winning swimmer Florent Manaudou carried the torch from the deck of the ship.

Manaudou passed it to Paralympic champion sprinter Nantenin Keita, who handed the torch to French rapper Jul to light a cauldron.

The arrival of the flame marks the start of a 12,000-kilometer torch relay across France and its far-flung overseas territories.

Organizers are hoping the first public spectacle of the Games on French soil will help build excitement after a row about the price of Olympics tickets and concerns about security.

President Emmanuel Macron praised the "unprecedented effort" of the security forces in Marseille and said after watching the flame arrive that he hoped the Olympics would bring France together.

France, which last hosted the Olympics a century ago, sees itself at the heart of the modern Olympic movement after a French aristocrat, Pierre de Coubertin, revived the idea of the Games as practiced by the Greeks until the 4th century BC.

After the Covid-hit edition in Tokyo in 2021 and the corruption-tainted Rio de Janeiro Games in 2016, the Paris Olympics are seen as an important moment for the sporting extravaganza.