Torch Ralay Stage 32: Celebrations like never before in Guadeloupe

This Saturday will be remembered for a long time. For the first time in history, the Olympic Torch shone in Guadeloupe on a day that began with its majestic arrival aboard the trimaran Maxi Banque Populaire XI, which crossed the Atlantic Ocean after leaving Brest on 7 June.

It was eagerly awaited on the quay of the ACTe Memorial by Tony Estanguet, President of the Paris 2024 Organising Committee, who had come to take part in the Olympic Torch Relay in the West Indies. On 7 June, in front of thousands of spectators, it was taken aboard one of the fastest and highest performance boats, full of technology and innovation. 

It was sailed by Armel Le Cléac'h, the Vendée Globe record holder, and Sébastien Josse, both of whom are renowned skippers. They were accompanied by four legendary ambassadors, all symbols of French excellence, who shared experience the adventure of crossing the Atlantic Ocean

Marie-José Pérec, triple Olympic gold medallist and symbol of the success of foreign sportsmen and women, and Marine Lorphelin, a former Miss France, took their places on the boat with multiple award-winning director Alexis Michalik and two-star chef Hugo Roellinger. 

They brought the Olympic Torch to Guadeloupe when they docked early in the morning at the ACTe Memorial, where the sailors celebrate their arrival at the Route du Rhum race every four years. The arrival of the boat gave rise to a particularly warm reunion between the crew and the spectators, including a special guest, Tony Estanguet, who was there to celebrate the moment. 

The route, designed in collaboration with the local and regional authorities, combined the emblematic sporting venues, the heritage and the magnificent landscapes that make Guadeloupe such a special place for the French. After setting off from the ACTe Memorial, the Torch made its way to the Gosier Sports and Cultural Centre. 

The trimaran Maxi Banque Populaire XI and its prestigious crew. PARIS 2024
The trimaran Maxi Banque Populaire XI and its prestigious crew. PARIS 2024

It then travelled to Saint-François and the Pointe du Châteaux, the most visited site on the island. The Olympic Torch also visited Saint-Claude, Basse-Terre and Le Moule, which is famous for its carnival. It also stopped off at the CREPS in Guadeloupe, a centre of excellence where promising young athletes can continue their studies. 

They could be the champions of tomorrow, like Laura Flessel, the fencer who gave her name to the sports centre in Petit-Bourg that the Torch relay visited. The next stage took place in the Baie des Saintes, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Back on the main island, the relay headed for Baie-Mahault and the Amédée Detraux velodrome, where the ceremonial cauldron was lit. 

The spotlight was shone on fencing, as Guadeloupe has contributed to France's success in this sport. Symbolically, the collective relay organised by the French Fencing Federation took place in Baie-Mahault at the Laura Flessel Sports Palace, captained by Laura Flessel herself. The former minister is still the most successful French woman fencer. 

Under the watchful eye of Tony Estanguet, President of the Paris 2024 Organising Committee, the 23 torchbearers included the young foil swordsman Owen Richardson, the up-and-coming athlete Ileana Nunes de Sousa Noronha, the enthusiast Pierre Elias Nahas and the former athlete, now national referee and coach in Petit-Bourg, Marine Horn-Cosaque. 

Guadeloupe celebrated a very special day in its history. PARIS 2024
Guadeloupe celebrated a very special day in its history. PARIS 2024

In addition to the collective relay, 124 people carried the Torch, including many Guadeloupe celebrities. Marie-José Pérec was the first person to carry the Olympic torch on Guadeloupe soil. Spectators were also able to applaud local athletes: Paralympic shooter Yann Jacques, triathlete Patrice Palmont, judoka Angelio Courtois and coach Hugo Thelier. 

Famous names include Raymonde Nebot, selected for the 1980 Moscow and 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, Christine Arron, a medallist in the 4 x 100 m relay at Athens 2004, and Mickaël Gelabale, a member of the French basketball team at London 2012 and Rio 2016. It was Véronique Vatran who lit the cauldron in Baie Mahault. A BMX enthusiast, she is actively involved in developing the sport in Guadeloupe through a number of initiatives. 

Dozens of members of the public also carried the torch, sharing their life stories and their commitment to the values of the Olympic Games. Among them were Frédérique Merlin, a teacher of young people with disabilities who works to prevent early school leaving and to protect the environment, and Nicole Tripoli, president of an association that supports people suffering from diseases affecting the immune system ("Lupus Guadeloupe"). 

The Maxi Banque Populaire XI trimaran will once again set sail for Fort-de-France with Tony Estanguet on board and a new crew made up of foreign athletes Laura Flessel, Coralie Balmy, Kéni Pipérol-Dampied and Thomas Debierre. The celebrations in the French West Indies will now continue in Martinique, with the many more unforgettable moments to come.