Olympic Torch is getting 'hotter' as we approach 26th July the day of the opening ceremony

The day after it arrived via the ocean, the Olympic Torch was taken on a spectacular journey to the four corners of the island of flowers. It showcased everything that makes Martinique so appealing, from the summit of the Montagne Pelée volcano to its lush landscapes and beaches. Tony Estanguet, the chairman of the Paris 2024 organising committee, was present for this day of celebration, particularly at the day’s start from the iconic site of the Montagne Pelée. The inhabitants of Martinique were able to cheer on a collective relay organised by the French Federation of Basketball as well as the presence of many celebrities, including Jocelyne Béroard, the singer in the band Kassav’ who lit the celebration cauldron at the end of the day.

The people of Martinique already enjoyed the opportunity of celebrating the Olympic Torch yesterday evening, following its arrival aboard the Maxi Banque Populaire XI trimaran sailed by the duo of skippers Armel Le Cleac’h and Sébastien Josse, accompanied by Tony Estanguet, chairman of the Paris 2024 organising committee, and four overseas sportspeople Laura FlesselCoralie BalmyKéni Pipérol-Dampied and Thomas Debierre. Sunday’s celebrations were rounded off with the lighting of the celebration cauldron in Fort-de-France by swimming Olympic medallist Coralie Balmy. Having celebrated the finish of the day in style, Martinique also witnessed the following stage on Monday! The route was designed to promote the extraordinary variety of this paradise of nature and biodiversity. From the ocean to the volcanoes, from the beaches to the forests, Martinique is also recognised as a World Biosphere Reserve.

From the Montagne Pelée to the finest beaches

The day began at the summit of the island’s most iconic natural site: the Paris 2024 Olympic Torch was lit on the Montagne Pelée volcano at daybreak, under the gaze of Tony Estanguet, for a moment full of thrills! Throughout the day, the Olympic Torch Relay lit up the island’s impressive natural sites. The volcanoes, the forests and peaks in the island’s north were listed as UNESCO world heritage in September 2023.

Several relays took place at the Passe de l’Écurie straits, a narrow sea passage where the people of Martinique like to take part in sailing yoles, a local type of boat. The Olympic Torch Relay also crossed the tie bar that links the island to the Sainte-Marie islet.

The municipalities that contribute to the island’s dynamism and renown were given pride of place. The Olympic Torch Relay visited Lamentin, the second largest town on the island, and the Pierre Samot aquatic centre and Stade Georges Gratiant stadium. It also headed to Saint-Esprit – in particular to the Georges Gabriel cultural centre – and Saint-Pierre, the “little Paris of the West Indies”, a town that was destroyed by the eruption of the Montagne Pelée in 1902. In the municipality of Le Diamant, the Olympic Torch lit up Cap 110, the memorial devoted to slavery, before the journey was completed in Schoelcher and then Fort-de-France.

Martinique’s capital, the island’s nerve centre, was in the spotlight for a second evening running. The route took in the Louis Achille sports complex, the Lycée Schoelcher senior high school, the Saint Louis cathedral, the Aimé Césaire museum complex, the Schoelcher library and the La Savane park. It then headed to Le Malecon, the epicentre of so many sporting as well as cultural events and the celebration venue where the celebration cauldron was lit.

A collective relay dedicated to basketball in Saint-Esprit

The day also saw the spotlight put on basketball. The first collective relay by the French Federation of Basketball took place in the municipality of Saint-Esprit. The FFBB underlined Martinique’s commitment to the training of a large number of basketball players, some of whom have helped to make the French national teams shine. In addition, the federation wanted to give maximum promotion to the development of 3-a-side basketball. This relay was led by young prodigy Lucas Duféal, who became a European champion with the French under-20s team last year.

At the same time, approximately one hundred torchbearers took it in turns throughout the day to carry the Olympic Torch. All the inhabitants of Martinique gave a warm welcome to the last torchbearer, singer Jocelyne Béroard, who is famous for being part of Kassav’, the renowned Creole zouk group. She is the first woman in the West Indies to have achieved gold disc success and also received the Timi’s trophy for the best Afro-West Indian actress. Champions from Martinique were also present today, with athlete Ludvy Vaillant, a member of the French athletics team who has twice taken part in the Games (in Rio in 2016 and Tokyo in 2021), or Jacques Sicot, known for having swum around Martinique in 11 days and holder of the French swimming record for a distance of 67 kilometres.

Like on each stage, members of the general public with inspiring stories to tell were also part of the celebrations. Among them, the spectators were able to cheer on Midjina Gambie, the day’s youngest torchbearer (13 years old) who dreams of sporting success. She may have bumped into Sandrine Gros-Désormeaux-Morjon, the chairwoman of an association that fights endometriosis through running and walking. There was also Antonio Jair, a former member of the French army commandos who is particularly involved in charity events, notably in the fight against breast cancer.

The unique chapter of the Ocean Relay came to a close at the end of this colourful day, marked by the massive presence of crowds along the roadsides and at the celebration venue. For the first time in history, the Olympic Torch Relay travelled to overseas territories to celebrate these lands of champions and paradises of biodiversity. The Olympic Torch Relay, with its official sponsors Coca-Cola, Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Epargne, will soon be back in mainland France. On Tuesday, the Olympic Torch will light up the Alpes-Maritimes and will continue its journey for 34 stages before the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games on 26th July in Paris.

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