MARSEILLE, France (AP) — French Olympic swimmer Florent Manaudou on Wednesday become the first Olympic torch carrier in France after the Olympic flame arrived to the southern French city of Marseille marking another milestone in the lead-up to the Summer Games in Paris.

A majestic three-mast ship carried the Olympic torch from Greece for the welcoming ceremony at sunset Wednesday in the city’s Old Port. The ship docked on the pontoon that reflects an athletics track and Manaudou carried it to mainland France.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Tens of thousands of people gathered Wednesday in the southern French city of Marseille to welcome the Olympic torch and mark another milestone in the lead-up to the Summer Games in Paris.

A majestic three-mast ship carried the Olympic torch from Greece for the welcoming ceremony at sunset Wednesday in the city’s old port.

The ship sailed into Marseille’s old port with the French national anthem, La Marseillaise, echoing from the embankment and a French Air force flyover with planes first drawing the five Olympic rings and then the red-blue-white colors of the nation’s flag.

Tens of thousands cheered the arrival at the cordoned=off stage area on the shore as thousands of others waved from balconies and windows overlooking the festivities.

The torch was lit in Greece last month before it was officially handed to France. It left Athens aboard a ship named Belem, which was first used in 1896, and spent twelve days at sea.

President Emmanuel Macron met with the French Olympic athletes who have sailed on Belem with the Olympic torch upon his arrival to Marseille. “With the arrival of the flame, the country enters the games,” Macron said at the city’s Olympic Marina.

Paris 2024 Olympics Organizing Committee President Tony Estanguet said the return of the Olympic Games to France was cause for a “fantastic celebration.”

“As a former athlete, I know how important the start of a competition is. That is why we chose Marseille, because it’s definitely one of the cities most in love with sports,” added Estanguet, a former Olympic canoeing star with gold medals from the 2000, 2004 and 2012 Games.

Safety of visitors and residents has been a top priority for authorities in Marseille, France’s second largest city with nearly a million inhabitants. About 8,000 police officers have been deployed around the harbor.

Thousands of firefighters and bomb disposal squads have been positioned around the city along with maritime police and anti-drone teams patrolling the city’s waters and its airspace.

“It’s a monumental day and we have been working hard for visitors and residents of Marseille to enjoy this historical moment,” said Yannick Ohanessian, the city’s deputy mayor.

The torch relay will start on Thursday in Marseille, before heading to Paris through iconic places across the country, from the world-famous Mont Saint-Michel to D-Day landing beaches in Normandy and the Versailles Palace.

Heavy police and military presence was seen patrolling Marseille’s city center Tuesday, as a military helicopter flew over the Old Port, where a range of barriers have been set up.

French Interior Ministry spokesperson Camille Chaize said officials were prepared for security threats including terrorism.

“We’re employing various measures, notably the elite National Gendarmerie Intervention Group unit, which will be present in the torch relay from beginning to end,” she said.

The Olympic cauldron will be lit after the Games’ opening ceremony that will take place on the River Seine on July 26.

The cauldron will be lit at a location in Paris that is being kept top-secret until the day itself. Among reported options are such iconic spots as the Eiffel Tower and the Tuileries Gardens outside the Louvre Museum.


Barbara Surk contributed from Nice, France. AP journalists Jeffrey Schaeffer, Oleg Cetinic, Nicolas Garriga and Daniel Cole contributed to this story.


AP Olympics