Torch Relay Stage 6: Pride of place in Corsica. PARIS 2024

The Olympic Torch first came to Corsica in 1992 for the Winter Olympics in Albertville. Now, 32 years later, it returned on Tuesday to highlight the natural beauty of the French island, 17 days after leaving Greece aboard the Belem.

The event highlighted the Corsican passion for sport, and football in particular, through the joint relay organised by the French Football Federation in Bastia. Nearly 120 torchbearers took part in the relay, including judoka Priscilla Gneto, who lit the cauldron in the evening. 

At the start of its journey, the Olympic Torch certainly had a strong Mediterranean connection. After crossing from Greece aboard the Belem, it travelled along the coast via Marseille, the départements of Var, Alpes-Maritimes and Bouches-du-Rhône, then Sète and Montpellier, before arriving on the shores of the Isle of Beauty. 

The day provided the perfect opportunity to capture some stunning images, highlighting the iconic landscapes of Upper and Southern Corsica. The first site visited in the morning was the Pointe de la Parata cape, an exceptional natural site overlooking the sea. The Olympic Torch also made its way to Bavella, following part of the legendary GR20, before discovering some of the island's most beautiful beaches on the Ile-Rousse. 

It took in the streets of Corte and some of the island's most beautiful villages, including Campana and Piedicroce, as well as the seaside resort of Porto-Vecchio and its clear waters. The passing of the Torch at the Stade Armand-Cesari, home of the SC Bastia, was an emotional moment, because in this stadium 19 people died and 2,300 were injured when the south stand collapsed on 5 May 1992, a tragedy that has left its mark on the club's history. 

The relay paid tribute to the victims. Josepha Guidicelli, president of the Furiani victims' association, was the first to carry the Olympic torch into the stadium, before a minute's silence was observed in front of the victims' memorial. 

A moment of emotion marked the passing of the Olympic Torch at Stade Armand-Cesari stadium, the home of Sporting Club de Bastia. It was in this stadium that 19 people died on 5th May 1992, while 2,300 others were injured when the south stand collapsed, a tragedy that marked the club's history. The Olympic Torch Relay wished to pay tribute to the victims. As a result, Josepha Guidicelli, the chairwoman of the collective for victims of the Furiani disaster, was the first to carry the Olympic Torch into the stadium, before a moment of silence in front of the memorial to the victims. 

This was followed by a collective relay organised by the French Football Federation. It was made up of 24 football enthusiasts led by Charles Orlanducci, the emblematic former captain of Sporting Club de Bastia and a former France international. All aspects of the sport were represented by male and female footballers who paraded in front of several hundred children gathered in the stadium. 

The group of almost 120 torchbearers included many people involved in the day-to-day development of sport on the island, including Lena Bardiot-Patroni, a swimming coach whose grandmother took part in the 1968 Grenoble Olympics and whose mother lit the cauldron at the 1992 Albertville Winter Olympics. There was also Nicolas Filippi, who, at the age of 81, works to encourage people to take up athletics, Olivier Oggiano, who works to promote sport for all, and triathlete Nicolas Wallon. Like him, another nature lover, Joseph Acquaviva, a proud shepherd, was one of the relay runners. 

Among the torchbearers was Patrick Fiori, a native of the island who sang Mama Corsica at the 1993 Eurovision Song Contest. Mathieu Lehanneur, the designer of the Olympic Torch and cauldrons for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, also took part in the Corsican stage. It was an honour for the man who designed the Olympic torch to be part of the convoy carrying the sacred fire of Olympia. 

Mathieu Lehanneur, designer of the torch and the cauldron of the Torch Relay. PARIS 2024
Mathieu Lehanneur, designer of the torch and the cauldron of the Torch Relay. PARIS 2024

In Bastia, the Olympic Torch paid tribute to Philousports, a well-known figure in the world of sport for his comments on the social networks. A Corsican by birth, he died of myopathy in 2021. Carrying the Olympic torch was one of his dreams and he even had the Paralympic agitos tattooed on his forearm. It was his niece and close friends who carried the Olympic torch in his name. 

At the same time, several events were organised throughout the day. In Porto-Vecchio, Olympic-style sports were held throughout the morning, while in Bastia there was a petanque court and BMX and table tennis workshops. This is also where the festival site was set up, in the heart of the city on Place Saint-Nicolas. Workshops on rollerblading, breakdancing and martial arts were open to all. 

After the festivities and the show, it was time for the last torchbearer to finish the relay, judoka Priscilla Gneto. She grew up in Porto-Vecchio and has been competing at the highest level for more than 10 years, as evidenced by her bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games. By lighting the cauldron, Priscilla brought the day to a fitting close in the heart of Corsica. 

Tomorrow, the Olympic Torch will return to mainland France to cross the Pyrénées-Orientales. From the Pic de Canigo to the coast at Collioure, from Prades to Perpignan, it will continue its journey to the delight of the many curious onlookers watching the convoy pass by.