Connect with us

Olympic Games

Olympic torch lights up France ahead of the Paris Games

If there was any doubt as to whether the French public would embrace the Olympics, the month of May gave a pretty clear indication, as over a million spectators turned out to watch the Olympic torch light up its path across the country. 

The torch, which has been crossing France for almost a month and is about to leave for the West Indies, has provided the perfect gentle launch for the Games which get underway in Paris with the opening ceremony along the Seine on July 26.

The images from Marseille in the south, where the torch arrived on board the Belem on May 8, to Mont Saint Michel in the north-west have been breathtaking and it has all passed off, thus far, without serious incident.

“There’s no denying that Marseille launched the momentum,” says Gregory Murac, head of the torch relay for the organising committee. 

In addition to a crowd of 200,000, more than 5.9 million television viewers watched rapper Jul light up the cauldron, in an atmosphere worthy of a Marseille football match. 

That in itself was a massive relief to the organisers, who then watched as the torch began its journey, the public turning out in huge numbers along the way. 

Nearly 1.2 million people are estimated to have turned out to watch the relay, with many families on the roads in an atmosphere worthy of the Tour de France. 

It has been accompanied every step of the way, however, by a procession of 200 police officers, and security remains a concern.

The torch has, as the authorities feared, attracted its share of protesters but they were largely muted during the first month. 

‘Very French’

On Tuesday, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin reported that 81 arrests had been made and 145 actions aimed at disrupting the relay that had been prevented since May 8. 

These include 45 by the protesters against the war in Gaza and 14 attributed to movements claiming to be opposed to the Olympics. 

Some 30 drones were also intercepted.

These rumblings of discontent have been met with a stereotypical shrug of the shoulders. 

“It’s very French what’s going on,” says David Lazarus, the mayor of Chambly (DVG) in the Oise region, north-west of Paris. 

“We criticise a lot in advance, and in fact we don’t properly gauge the popular dimension of these Olympics.”

Protesters or not, the torch continues its journey across the country, even finding time to mingle with the stars of cinema as it was walked up the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival.

The flame is due to set off from Brest on Friday evening, bound for Guadeloupe on the Banque Populaire boat skippered by Vendee Globe winner Armel Le Cléac’h. 

“It’s obviously a popular success,” said David Roizen, an Olympic Games specialist with the Fondation Jean-Jaures. 

“Given the scale of the resources made available, I’m not surprised. Given the investment made by the local authorities, given what’s at stake for the organisers. We should be delighted.”  

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


World Cup News


More in Olympic Games