Torch Relay Stage 2: The Mediterranean air. PARIS 2024

From Saint-Raphael to Toulon, from the coast to the hinterland, the second leg of the Olympic Torch Relay in the Var region, was a love letter to the Mediterranean. It was a stage full of action, with a focus on culture, rugby and the group organised in partnership with the French Federation for Disabled Sports.

Marielle Goitschel, one of the most successful alpine skiers in history, carried the torch at the start of the day in Saint-Raphael. Richard Virenque, one of the all-time greats of French cycling, and Domingo, a streamer with nearly two million followers, waved to the crowds lining the streets of Toulon. Charles Berling, an actor and folk hero from the region, lit the cauldron at the Toulon venue to close the stage.

The Mediterranean pervades the towns and cities of the Var, a province with many famous destinations for those who want to take a break from routine and recharge their batteries. It boasts a wide range of natural sites, running the whole gamut from the sea, rivers and lakes to mountains and forests. The Olympic torch offered a glimpse of all this during the day.   

It set off from Saint-Raphael, hugging the coastline at Seyne-sur-Mer on its way to Plage de l'Almanarre in Hyeres, a popular spot for kite surfing. It also ventured further inland to explore the rich local heritage, passing the archaeological site of Olbia in Hyeres, the bastion of the Counts of Provence in Brignoles and the shores of Lac de Sainte-Croix, the third largest lake in France.

At the Centre for Sports Resources, Expertise and Performance (CREPS) in Boulouris, the French Handisport Federation presented 24 of its licence holders to the public. The star of the day was Antoine Avati, a die-hard football fan whose spastic diplegia has never stopped him from dreaming of winning a medal at the Games. At the tender age of 13, the captain was at the helm of his team. 

Part of the second stage of the Torch Relay. PARIS 2024
Part of the second stage of the Torch Relay. PARIS 2024

Others included up-and-coming and established athletes such as Jean-Louis Boilot, who won bronze in the table tennis event at the Toronto Paralympic Games; the wheelchair rugby player Marion Parent; Charlotte Cocriamont, who previously represented France in boccia; Nicolas Jouanserre, a member of the French national wheelchair basketball team; and Makasidy Omar, who was part of the team that represented France at the last Deaflympics. 

The group relay also paid tribute to people who work hard to promote sport for the disabled, such as Bernard Tassaro, who has been involved in the Parasport movement for more than 26 years, particularly in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur Regional Parasport Committee, and to carers who work tirelessly every day to help people with disabilities, such as Melanie Felz, a physiotherapist who uses sport to help children with motor disabilities.

This symbolic event demonstrates the department's commitment to making sport accessible to all. In this sense, the Pomponiana Olbia Functional Rehabilitation Institute, which promotes inclusive sport for people with severe disabilities, is worth mentioning. The message is that everyone should be able to practise sport according to their abilities. 

A succession of more than 120 torchbearers completed the second leg of the Torch Relay in France, including local celebrities and athletes who have carried the flag for their region (and continue to do so). Bernard Lemaitre, president of the Racing Club de Toulon, and Guillaume Mélenchon, president of the Toulon Provence Mediterranee wheelchair rugby club, were the proud representatives of the Toulon rugby scene. 

Toulon is a beautiful Mediterranean city of almost 170,000 inhabitants. PARIS 2024
Toulon is a beautiful Mediterranean city of almost 170,000 inhabitants. PARIS 2024

Alpine skiing star Marielle Goitschel was also present. The two-time Olympic gold medallist and seven-time world champion, she is a sporting legend in the Var. Richard Virenque, who holds the record for most victories in the King of the Mountains classification of the Tour de France, brought the crowd to its feet in Toulon. A little later, it was Domingo, a streamer always ready for a sporting challenge, who held the torch aloft.

The festivities continued in the Place de la Liberté. The actor and director Charles Berling, who runs the Theatre Liberte in Toulon, took over the last part of the stage and lit the cauldron. Antoine le Menestrel treated thousands of people to some kaleidoscopic performances. The vertical dancer jumped from rooftop to rooftop on the Place de la Liberté before dancing on a zip wire that spanned the entire square, putting the audience at the centre of the experience. Later, the Funambulist performed his Lignes de vie show on the façade of the City Hall.

The Olympic torch will continue its journey in the Alpes-de-Haute-Provence region. The highlights of the programme include a run around the citadel of Sisteron, a visit to the Haute-Provence Geopark and the Ubaye Valley, and the finish in Manosque, a Provencal town with character where the cauldron will be lit at the end of the day.