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Olympic Flame Arrives in Marseille, Starts Coastal Parade

By Xinhua|May 09,2024

A policeman patrols before the arrival of the Olympic flame at the old port in Marseille, southern France, on May 8, 2024. (Photo/Julien Mattia, Xinhua)

Paris - The three-masted ship Belem carrying the Olympic flame arrived in the southern French city of Marseille in the late morning of Wednesday, and kicked off a six-hour coastal parade before the flame finally lands at the old port at around 7:30 p.m..

The parade is accompanied by 1,024 local boats, and workshops are organized along the coast to celebrate the arrival.

More than 150,000 spectators are expected to attend the ceremony in the evening and security has been a top priority for authorities in Marseille. About 8,000 police officers have been deployed around the harbor from the afternoon.

"It's an unprecedented level of security," French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said. "Life goes on in Marseille, but in great security conditions."

A series of artistic performances and exhibitions, starting from 5:00 p.m., will follow the parade, before Florent Manaudou, France's 2012 Olympic men's 50m freestyle swimming champion, will bring the Olympic flame to land shortly after 7:30 p.m. in the presence of French President Emmanuel Macron.

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

The welcome ceremony also includes a fantastic show by the Patrouille de France, France's elite air display team.

A woman waits for the arrival of the Olympic flame at the old port in Marseille. (Photo/Julien Mattia, Xinhua)

The Olympic flame for the Paris 2024 Games was lit in Greece on April 16, before it was officially handed to France at the renowned Panathenaic Stadium on April 26.

It left Athens aboard Belem the next morning. Belem was first used in 1896, the same year as the first modern Olympic Games was held in the Greek capital. The boat completed a 12-day voyage before arriving in Marseille, a city founded around 600 BC by Greek settlers from Phocaea.

"We are extremely proud," Mayor of Marseille Benoit Payan said. "This is where it all begins."

The torch relay will start on Thursday with former Marseille football club players, Jean-Pierre Papin, Didier Drogba and Basile Boli, as well as French basketball legend Tony Parker, among the torchbearers.

More than 10,000 people will take part in the torch relay before the flame reaches Paris through iconic places across the country, from Mont-Saint-Michel to D-Day landing beaches in Normandy and the Versailles Palace.

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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