Former Ivorian footballer Didier Drogba holds the Olympic Torch in Marseille. GETTY IMAGES

After the arrival of the Olympic Torch at the Vieux Port, Paris 2024 once again invited the people of Marseille to celebrate the first day of the Torch Relay in France in the heart of the city.

Paris 2024, Marseille, the Aix-Marseille-Provence Metropolitan Area, the Bouches-du-Rhône department and the South region pulled out all the stops to keep the party going in the city. Nearly 200 Olympic torchbearers lit up Marseille, including Basile Boli from the top of Notre-Dame de la Garde and Didier Drogba at the Stade Vélodrome. The opening day of the relay was a citywide celebration of sport, athletes and culture. 

Before it became an Olympic city, Marseille lived and breathed sport, especially football, with the first team of torchbearers capturing the essence of the Olympique. Basile Boli, who ran the first leg od the day, stole the show by holding the Olympic Torch aloft from the top of the Notre-Dame de la Garde Basilica before handing it over to Colette Cataldo, an 83-year-old Olympique de Marseille supporter, in a symbolic and emotional moment. 

Marseille's footballing legends took turns to carry the torch on the final leg: Jean-Pierre Papin kicked off at the iconic Vélodrome, before Louisa Nécib and Valentin Rongier took over at the stadium. On the roof, Soprano and Jenny Perret, one of Olympique de Marseille's rising stars, performed a torch kiss. It fell to Éric Di Meco to pass the torch to one of the home crowd's idols, Didier Drogba, who ran the final leg and lit the cauldron. 

Other athletes also meet the people of Marseille, such as Tony Parker, sho carried the torch into the Vallon des Auffes before passing it on to Nando de Colo in a celebration of basketball. The crowd cheered comedian Redouane Bougheraba as he passed the MARSEILLE sign, as well as actress Nicole Ferroni, TV and radio presenter Camille Combal, three-star chef Alexandre Mazzia and Alonzo, who shared the stage with Soprano. 

A runner holds the Olympic Torch on the Corniche on the seafront in Marseille. GETTY IMAGES
A runner holds the Olympic Torch on the Corniche on the seafront in Marseille. GETTY IMAGES

This symbolic day also brought to the limelight anonymous fighters with extraordinary stories, such as Barbara, a sailor who works to make it easier for women to take up sailing in Marseille; Louis, a former docker who is the country's most decorated boxing trainer; Clara, the French Para swimming champion, who wants to make the sport accessible to all; and Matthieu, a rising decathlon star who also serves in the Marseille Naval Fire Brigade. 

There were also France's Jean Galfione, pole vault gold medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the Cypriot swimmer Karolina Pelendritou, three-time Paralympic gold medallist, the Italian rower Davide Tizzano, two-time Olympic gold medallist, and the Finnish Paralympic athlete Amanda Kotaja, who competes in the T54 category for wheelchair athletes and won silver at the Tokyo Olympics. 

On the cultural front, the Château d'If hosted (LA)HORDE for the second consecutive day for an adaptation of the show 'Room With A View', which was performed on the different levels of the castle. A plastic installation by Miguel Chevalier was also on show in the island's lighthouse 

The opening stage os the Olympic Torch was also an opportunity to unleash the power of local businesses. Paris 2024 asked La Table de Cana, a social integration company, to provide lunch for the (swift) convoy and the Open de Provence vocational rehabilitation centre to provide laundry services. The journey continues along the Mediterranean coast. From Saint-Raphael to Toulon, it will cross the Var department.