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The Olympic Games heat up in Marseille

There are many mixed feelings, it's an outcome, but it's also the beginning of something.

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The Olympic Games heat up in Marseille

There are many mixed feelings, it's an outcome, but it's also the beginning of something. We finally arrive at the beginning Postcards. A senator's train for a majestic parade. After twelve days of crossing from the port of Piraeus, the Belem appeared off the coast of Marseille a little after 8 a.m. this Wednesday. Ready to let yourself be carried away by the crowds and a crazy day, turning your back on intimacy. For a grandiose parade, escorted by more than a thousand boats. A meticulous choreography, for a myriad of hulls accompanied by a smiling weather forecast and a complicit mistral that felt the need to catch its breath. “Marseille proud to welcome the Olympic flame,” announced signs in the Old Port. The light, the heat and the passion were still alive when, at the end of a special, festive, summer, carefree day, the Belem, after having paraded along the southern and northern harbors, along the beaches, posed in front of the Pharo gardens, made a theatrical entry into the Old Port at 7 p.m. to the sound of the fog horn. Accompanied by a giant tifo of several hundred square meters and smoke bombs brandished by the group of OM supporters the South Winners.

Emerging from the lantern, the flame lit the torch held out by Florent Manaudou, the swimmer, the first torchbearer in France, supervised by the young scouts. Just before a spectacular fireworks display and La Marseillaise, sung by Marseille tenor Naestro. The Patrouille de France greeted the event with three paintings, notably by drawing the Olympic rings. Under the gaze of the President of the Republic and numerous personalities, the famous three-masted ship moored to an athletics track of around a hundred meters, a nod to the 156-meter track which had been deployed on the Seine between the Alexandre-III bridge and the Invalides bridge, in June 2017, on the occasion of an Olympic day which, a few weeks before the attribution of the Games, had deployed the creativity of Thierry Reboul, the executive director of the ceremonies , and arouses the curiosity of spectators.

The official musical theme of the Paris 2024 Games, entitled Parade, signed by Victor Le Masne and exceptionally performed by the Marseille Orchestra, sounded from the Palais du Pharo. At the dock, the famous three-masted ship let Florent Manaudou escape who, with slow steps, passed the torch to Nantenin Keïta, multi-medalist athlete at the Paralympic Games. Before the symbolic lighting of the cauldron by rapper Jul.

Highlight of an unforgettable day (concluded with a concert by Alonzo and Soprano on a floating stage), which mobilized energy and attention, which brought together a considerable crowd in the Old Port of Marseille (with spectators in boats, hanging from balconies, perched on terraces) to experience the return of the Olympic flame to France. “The first day of the flame was important, we wanted to make it a success, to honor Marseille. We wanted the French to say “Wow, it was beautiful, we are proud of what this country is capable of doing.” This contributes to the overall success we want from these Games. When you organize events outside, success and experience are linked to the weather. I've been checking the weather sites several times a day for the past week. We know how much impact this has. We would have done it in the rain, but we are quite happy that the weather was nice. And we did what we had to do to make sure the rest went well. Of course it's complicated, when we want to do daring things, we hustle, it requires fighting from time to time, the first responses are not always positive, because, when we want to do things that are not have never been done, there is reluctance. We take risks. In Marseille, as elsewhere, they trusted our strong desire to do new things. In Marseille, as elsewhere, we haven't backed down on much," smiled Tony Estanguet, the president of Paris 2024.

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Tuesday evening, the Patrouille de France had, for a rehearsal, crossed the honey-colored sky of Marseille. The Old Port, bricked up for several days, and its boats inspected in every corner, had followed the scene with curiosity, aware of the imminence of an event with the installation of surrounding walls, giant screens, imposing barriers to surround a carefully combed site, protected by a vast police force (more substantial than during the visit of Pope Francis in September 2023). The Old Port, which remembered with emotion the festive days of 2013 to celebrate the European capital of culture, the hours of jubilation following the European coronation of OM in 1993 or the fever which accompanied the last title of French champion of the Marseille club in 2010, was dressed to the nines to welcome the flame.

Marseille, after Olympia and Athens, symbolic host. Pierre-Olivier Beckers, President of the IOC Coordination Commission, impressed, underlined: “Marseille is this common thread between Athens and an emblematic city of France founded by Greeks 2600 years ago, there is no many countries that can afford it. Marseille is there. I didn't expect this, this incredible fervor. This shows that the slogan “Let's open the Games wide” was perfectly accurate, let's ensure that all segments of the population, young and old, that all socio-economic strata can benefit from them in one way or another. other. We see that people are taking advantage of it. After editions of Tokyo (2021 Summer Games) and Beijing (2022 Winter Games) without spectators (due to Covid-19), without parties, people want to celebrate something, especially in the complicated world of today. It was an obvious choice. An extraordinary city that shows its enthusiasm, with values ​​of excellence, respect, inclusion that we need so much. »

Moved, Marie-José Pérec, three-time Olympic champion, summed up: “The Games are my life, the Games are my youth. The Games are a lot of emotion. With a little Zodiac we went to meet the Belem, the emotion and a lot of images came to mind, it gave me goosebumps. And there, I said to myself “it’s not you who will make the Games”. The athletes are going to experience something crazy. When I think about it, I tell myself that it will be greater than anything I have experienced, because it is home. Our athletes are going to do something great, something beautiful. We will be behind them. It will push them. To make the most beautiful games. Have the most beautiful Games in France. And it starts in the Old Port, it’s magical. We are going to experience great Games. »

Thierry Rey, special advisor for Paris 2024, said: “It’s extraordinary. There are many mixed feelings, it’s an outcome, but it’s also the beginning of something. We finally arrive at the beginning, that’s what’s crazy, after all this distance we’ve come. We are all very happy to see that this is starting. There are many French people who will finally be able to see what the Olympic Games (July 26-August 11) and the Paralympic Games (August 28-September 8) are, with this moment of the flame that will belong to them. The flame is the first pillar of the Games, in a great popular celebration which will make our territories shine. It’s a liberating moment. The flame is an event which has a participatory destination to get people on board, because the Games will take place in Île-de-France, in Paris, in Seine-Saint-Denis, but also in France, with football, sailing, handball, basketball... it's a way of celebrating the Games as close as possible to the population. »

Happy to have taken a further step towards the opening ceremony, on July 26, Tony Estanguet imagines the rest, illuminated by the torch relay and assures: “There is this strong collaboration between the sports movement and the actors local audiences who must work together so that each day honors a territory, honors athletes and French personalities. It is in this state of mind that we will work until the Games. Because we continue to prepare for all the competitions, that’s the priority. I was in Versailles on Monday, Sunday at the Yves-du-Manoir stadium where we had a “test event”, I also went to the Olympic Aquatic Center for an artistic swimming competition, the teams are fully mobilized on each of the sites, that We are progressing well, we have good indicators for the moment. We continue the preparation. »

From one ceremony on the water to another, Pierre-Olivier Beckers slips: “I keep my observer’s eyes. Confidence will increase tenfold for the French population, making them want to be part of the celebration in Paris and in other cities, in the sports infrastructures, in the squares. With the party in Marseille, there was a very important stake for all the security forces, starting with the Minister of the Interior. »

The Games map was launched this Wednesday on the application and the official Paris 2024 website, in order to find out about the opportunities to experience these Games as close as possible to home. The Games project is, for a day bathed in sunshine, taken out of offices, boxes, meetings and think tanks to take action. The challenges ahead remain colossal. After the delivery of the sites, the recruitment of volunteers, the success of the marathon registrations for all, the issues are now economic, to stay within the announced budget; social, to face the protest of the “anti-Olympics” (around ten organizations demonstrated in Marseille on the sidelines of the arrival of Belem); and finally popular, hoping to create momentum, before the sporting challenge and the medals which must crown the adventure.

This Thursday, Marseille will launch the torch relay (12,000 km, with more than 400 towns to cross). Basile Boli will be the first torchbearer at Notre-Dame de la Garde. At the end of the day, Didier Drogba will come forward as the last. Marseille will then be able to let the Games slip away and tune into OM's Europa League semi-final return in Bergamo. With the hope of a new final. And in mind the memory of the flame…

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