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The flame of the Paris Olympic Games, which open on July 26, will be lit on Tuesday in Greece in accordance with tradition in ancient Olympia, the site of the first Games in antiquity, before crossing the country and completing a long journey to reach France.

At last! After two editions—the Tokyo and Beijing Olympics—marred by restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the traditional ceremony in Olympia will regain all its magnificence this Tuesday, with the participation of dignitaries and personalities from around the world. With 101 days to go until the start of the Paris Games, the lighting ceremony of the Olympic flame will take place, as tradition dictates, in the sanctuary of Olympia in Greece, in homage to the ancient Games.

In the grassy ruins, 2,600 years old, of the temple of Hera, near the stadium where young athletes of antiquity competed in their own Games, young women dressed as priestesses in long, light-colored pleated robes will perform a slow choreography in homage to Apollo, to the sound of the recorder.

Sun Temple

In a setup worthy of the “Sun Temple,” the flame lighting system will pass through the use of the sun and a cylindrical-parabolic mirror, a process already known to the ancient Greeks and to Hergé, the creator of Tintin. The sun’s rays reflected in the container release intense heat, giving life to the precious flame. It is the “high priestess,” better known as Mary Mina (Greek actress), who will perform the lighting of the “sacred fire” in the middle of the day before an audience of guests, including International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach. She will then bring it to the stele where rests the heart of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the renovator of the modern Olympic Games in 1896.

The torch will be handed over an hour later to the first bearer, Stéfanos Doúskos, Olympic rowing champion at the Tokyo Olympics, who will pass it on to Laure Manaudou, triple medalist at the 2004 Athens Games, who will reconnect with the country where her career took a decisive turn. Indeed, 20 years ago, Manaudou won Olympic gold in the 400-meter freestyle, silver in the 800 meters, and bronze in the 100-meter backstroke, thereby ensuring her emergence in the eyes of the world, before continuing with performances and setbacks.

She will then be relayed kilometer by kilometer throughout the northern Peloponnese. The Greek incursion will highlight the historical ties between the country—the cradle of the Games—and France, while showcasing the richness of the local heritage.

Terminus Paris

On the final day in Greece, on April 26, the Olympic flame will be presented in Megara, Marathon, Cape Sounion, before reaching Athens and the iconic Panathenaic Stadium where it will then be handed over to the French Games organizers. The flame will embark on the three-masted “Belem,” which will bring it to Marseille on May 8. The Olympic flame relay route will then begin its journey and cross 64 territories (departments, cities, overseas territories) before reaching its final destination: Paris, on July 26, the day of the Olympic Games opening ceremony.

There is no doubt that the spirit of a certain Baron will hover very strongly over the Stade de France on that day.