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

Torchbearers are to carry the Olympic flame through the streets of Marseille, France’s southern port city, a day after it arrived on a majestic three-masted ship for the welcome ceremony

The torch will begin its eleven-week journey across the country with around 10,000 bearers passing through more than 450 cities until the opening ceremony of the Paris Games on July 26.

Former footballer Basile Boli, who played for the Marseille team in the 1990s, will launch the first relay on Thursday from the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde, which overlooks Marseille and the Mediterranean Sea.

Basketball player Tony Parker would 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.

The intention was that the participants would run all day through the most emblematic places of the city to bring the torch to the roof of the famous Stade Velodrome, home of Marseille’s passionate football fans.

The city celebrated the arrival of the flame with great fanfare on Wednesday when Marseille Mayor Benoît Payan said more than 230,000 people attended the ceremony in the old port.

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

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

During the Games, the sailing competition and several football matches will be held in Marseille.

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