Torchbearers in Marseille kick off the Olympic flame’s journey across the country


MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Torchbearers are to carry the Olympic flame through the streets of France’ southern port city of Marseille, one day after it arrived on a majestic three-mast ship for the welcoming ceremony.

The torch begins its 11-week journey across the country with about 10,000 bearers passing through more than 450 towns until the Games’ opening ceremony in Paris on July 26.

Former soccer player Basile Boli, who played with the Marseille team in the 1990s, will launch Thursday’s first relay from Notre Dame de la Garde basilica that overlooks Marseille and the Mediterranean.

Basketball player Tony Parker was to take his turn in the relay later Thursday. A fencing champion, a skateboarder, a Michelin-starred chef and a comedian were also chosen to carry the flame.

Participants were scheduled to run all day through the most emblematic places of the city to bring the torch on the roof of the famed Stade Velodrome, home to Marseille’s passionate soccer fans.

The city on Wednesday celebrated with great fanfare the flame’s arrival as Marseille Mayor Benoît Payan said that more than 230,000 people attended the ceremony in the Old Port.

“It’s just incredible, just magical,” resident Amel Sekko said. “We needed it. We never have events or beautiful things like this in Marseille.”

Mouna Boulhas, another Marseille resident, said: “It’s something you have to experience at least once in your life … We have the sun and the Olympic flame.”

During the Games, the sailing competition and some soccer matches will be held in Marseille.


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