Let the Party Begin! Olympic Flame Arrives in Marseille

Before a crowd thronging the waterfront and hilltops of this ancient port city of Marseille, the Olympic flame arrived in France on Wednesday, beginning a 79-day relay across the country and its territories that will culminate in Paris with the start of the Olympic Games on July 26.

In an elaborate ceremony attended by President Emmanuel Macron and a crowd estimated at more than 150,000 people, all eyes were on the Belem, a historic three-masted ship that bore the flame, and was greeted by more than 1,000 boats in a forest of masts filling Marseille’s harbor.

The Belem, which spent much of the day cruising just beyond the city’s old port, left Greece on April 27, carrying the flame lit in Ancient Olympia eleven days before that.

“We needed a powerful symbol, a strong symbol that somehow showed the radiant face of France,” Tony Estanguet, the head of the Paris Olympic Committee, told France 2 television of the city, which was founded some 2,600 years ago. “Marseille is a city of sport, passion, and festivities.”

Florent Manaudou, France’s Olympic mens’s 50 meters freestyle champion in 2012, has been chosen to usher the flame ashore at around 7:30 p.m. A branch of the French Air Force, known as the “Acrobatic Patrol,” will trace the five Olympic rings in the sky. Mr. Macron is not expected to make a speech, opting to shun politics in favor of a celebration that will include a free rap concert on a floating stage.

France has been the target of repeated Islamist terrorist attacks over the past decade, and security was tight on Wednesday, with access to the port area controlled by more than 6,000 law enforcement officers. Gérald Darmanin, the interior minister and a prospective presidential candidate, called the level of security “unprecedented.”

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