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Paris 2024 Torch lit in Ancient Olympia, Relay Under Way

The torch for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games was ignited in ancient Olympia in a customary ceremony on Tuesday, marking the end of the seven-year preparations for the Games, which begin on July 26.

Due to gloomy skies, Greek actress Mary Mina, who played the part of high priestess, lighted the torch with a backup flame rather than a parabolic mirror, as is customary for the opening of a relay in Greece and France.

It will culminate with the lighting of the Olympic torch in the French capital during the opening ceremony. Paris will host the Summer Olympics for the third time, following 1900 and 1924.

“In these difficult times we are living through, with wars and conflicts on the rise, people are fed up with all the hate, the aggression and negative news they are facing day in and day out,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said in his speech.

“We are longing for something which brings us together, something that is unifying, something that gives us hope. The Olympic flame that we are lighting today is the symbol of this hope.”

The IOC has cleared the way for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Olympics despite the ongoing war in Ukraine but they will do so as neutral athletes with no national flag or anthem, a decision that angered Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron also said last week Russia would be asked to observe a ceasefire in Ukraine during the Paris Olympics. The Kremlin said Ukraine might use it as an opportunity to regroup and rearm.

Suspending armed conflicts under an Olympic truce during the Games was a standard practice in ancient Greece.

TORCH RELAY

The high priestess then lit the torch of the first runner of the relay, Greece’s Olympic rowing champion Stefanos Ntouskos.

After a short run he then handed the flame on to France’s three-time Olympic medallist in swimming and head of Paris’ Olympic torch relay, Laure Manaudou, as the representative of the host city.

The flame will be officially handed over to Paris Games organisers in Athens’s Panathenaic stadium, site of the first modern Games in 1896, on April 26 after an 11-day relay across Greece.

It will then depart the next day for France on board a three-masted ship, the ‘Belem’ where it will arrive on May 8 in Marseille, with up to 150,000 people expected to attend the ceremony in the southern city’s Old Port.

The last torch bearer in Marseille will climb on the roof of the Velodrome stadium on May 9, organisers said.

Marseille, founded by the Greek settlers of Phocaea around 600 BC, will host the sailing competitions.

The French torch relay will last 68 days and will end in Paris with the lighting of the Olympic flame on July 26.

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Sydney Okafor

I am so passionate about this my profession as a broadcast journalist and voiceover artists and presently a reporter at TV360 Nigeria

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