Paris 2024 Olympic Games: the July surprise, a day of celebration in Marseille, a more complicated end to the ceremony… Relive the arrival of the flame from the inside

Paris 2024 Olympic Games: the July surprise, a day of celebration in Marseille, a more complicated end to the ceremony... Relive the arrival of the flame from the inside

Jul, the country's best-known Marseille rapper, lit the Olympic cauldron this Wednesday. AFP POOL – LUDOVIC MARIN/POOL

The Olympic flame arrived on French soil this Wednesday, May 8, two and a half months before the start of the Games. To applaud him, nearly 150,000 spectators in the Old Port of Marseille.

It is probably still too early to rejoice. Less than 80 days before the opening ceremony of the Games, on July 26 on the Seine, in Paris, everything is still possible. The worst and the best. On the other hand, we can welcome the arrival of the Olympic flame on Wednesday in Marseille.

Those responsible for the organizing committee (Cojo) had promised dreams, color and spectacle around the Old Port. The reality probably exceeded their expectations. And that of the 150,000 spectators who came to welcome Belem, official carrier of the torch for the last 12 days after the traditional ceremony in Olympia (Greece).

This blowback with fanfare also twists the neck of the idea according to which nothing would be possible between the Phocaean city and the capital. The Olympics are bigger than an OM-PSG rivalry. And the welcome from the Marseillais was grandiose. From the masterful and noisy nautical parade that began at midday to the Soprano concert at the start of the evening, (almost) nothing came to spoil the party, closely monitored by 6,000 representatives of the army forces. ;rsquo;order (read elsewhere). A record!

It was the first real test for Paris 2024, we’re not going to lie. Organizing such a barnum to launch the torch relay on the roads of France, we had to dare. "Marseille is a city of sport, of passions, of heart. It is also an Olympic city which will host football and sailing events. It made sense to start the adventure here", Tony Estanguet, the boss of Cojo, has been trumpeting for weeks. The result proves him right.

Alonzo and Sopranos

To the images of trash accumulating on certain boulevards of the city due to the garbage collectors' strike or a handful of anti-Olympic demonstrators blocked on the outskirts of the northern districts throughout the day, the media from around the world, more than 1,400 accredited journalists, preferred to show the best of Marseille.

Its sun-drenched Old Port; its fans who are masters of tifo and the history of the city; its artists, Alonzo and Soprano, symbols of local multicultarism; or even its athletes with the leader Florent Manaudou joined on stage by the Marseille rap star. History will indeed remember that it was Jul and not Zizou who lit the first cauldron of the adventure. To each their own.

Between two dance steps and a wild sirtaki on the steps of the town hall, Mayor Benoît Payan logically greeted this day "for the ;rsquo;history, extraordinary and popular". "It’was a joke", said a little later in the evening the Perpignanais Frédérick Bousquet, ex-swimmer of the Cercle de Marseille and incidentally Olympic medalist.

The opportunity to bring together

The public, gathered at the bottom of the famous Canebière or perched on the Pharo hills, converged on this small piece of athletics track designed to accommodate the three-masted ship and the flame. A continuous stream of men and women simply happy to be there and to commune all day.

"There are so few opportunities to get together, we had to take advantage of them." Like this retired couple from Lyon, Myriam, Arnaud and Elias had traveled from Montpellier. Initially, they had to follow the Blue Coast without stopping in Marseille. "My wife told me about the flame, we saw the light (from 7 am)…" and they entered. "Frankly, I didn’expect something like this. What a world, what an organization!"

Twelve hours later, they were still there to see the Old Port burn and the Patrouille de France draw the Olympic rings in the sky of Provence. This Thursday morning, the torch will begin its slow ascent towards the capital. Sunday, she will be in Arles. On Monday, it will pass through Millau, Sète and Montpellier. Reserve your piece of sidewalk!

Security: an end to a Catholic ceremony

Everything worked à wonder until the end of the ceremony of lighting the cauldron, a moment chosen by a good number of spectators to escape from the compact crowd also come for the concert of Soprano. Problem: several boulevards, the Canebiere to begin with, were then closed at the time. public traffic sometimes causing chaos, with people stuck in one direction or the other, no longer knowing where to go. go.

Panic-stricken, several people had to & be taken care of by emergency services. The flow ended up regaining a little fluidity; with the intervention of the police after twenty minutes of maximum tension. But the Soprano concert had not yet started…hellip;

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