Olympic Flame Starts Journey to Paris as 100-Day Countdown Begins

A composite image of the Port of Marseilles, which will welcome the Olympic torch to France this month. Photo © Paris 2024 – Florian Hulleu.

We’ve officially made it to the 100-day countdown to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games, and whether you’re one of the (very lucky) few who managed to bag some tickets in today’s final release, or you’re planning a watching party from home, it’s hard not to feel the frisson of excitement that comes with this kind of proximity.

And if that spark hasn’t quite been lit for you yet? Perhaps a literal flame will do the trick.

Yesterday saw the start of the traditional torch relay, which wends its way to the site of the Games, begin as usual in Olympia, Greece – the site of the original, ancient Olympic Games. Though traditionally, the torch is lit using the sun’s rays and a parabolic mirror, an unseasonably overcast day meant that a bit of help was needed from another flame. The ceremony was helmed by Greek actress Mary Mina, who adopted the role of high priestess in the dramatic ceremony, which took place in Olympia’s ruins. Mina lit the flame, and then passed it along to its first torchbearer, Greek rowing champion Stefanos Douskos, who won gold in the men’s single sculls at the Tokyo Olympics.

Now, the torch begins a long and winding 3,100 mile journey to Paris, where it’ll land on July 26 for the Opening Ceremony. In the meantime, it’ll first spend eleven days travelling around Greece – helped by 600 torchbearers –  finishing its tour of the country in Athens at the Panathenenaic Stadium on April 26. Then, the torch will travel on the Belem, a historic ship that dates back to 1896, the first year of the modern Olympics, to Marseille in the south of France.

Once the torch reaches France, it’ll begin its passage between a whopping 10,000 people chosen as torchbearers – from Olympic athletes to ordinary citizens to folks with incredible stories of their own, representing a cross-section of the diverse French population. While Marseille looks set to have the biggest celebration of all (Paris notwithstanding, of course), with a full day of parades, workshops, parties, and exhibitions planned for April 26 at the city’s port, there’ll be plenty going on elsewhere in France as the torch makes its way through the mainland and overseas French territories, too – and these celebrations can be tracked from 8 May using the official Games app.

The torch isn’t just a celebration of the Olympics – it’s also intended as a symbol of global unity, which feels particularly poignant as conflict continues to escalate around the world.

“This torch is a message of peace, a message of friendship between peoples, which is all the stronger at a time when the world is in such bad shape,” said Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo to France 2 TV at the torch-lighting ceremony.

The full route of the Olympic torch can be previewed here.

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