Stage 43 – Olympic Torch Relay – Celebrating history and sport in the Haute-Marne with the Olympic Torch!

Once again, the Olympic Torch Relay delighted thousands of spectators massed at the roadside to watch it come past. This Friday, it visited the Haute-Marne, known for its green setting in the heart of Europe. The Olympic Torch Relay put the spotlight on the area’s history and those who shaped it, from Denis Diderot in the town of Langres àto Charles de Gaulle in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. Weightlifting was celebrated today by means of a collective relay organised by its federation, with 24 of the discipline’s enthusiasts. In total, 114 people took it in turns to carry the Olympic Torch through the Haute-Marne, including former basketballer Florent Piétrus or also judo athlete Axel Clerget, a mixed team gold medallist at the most recent Olympic Games, who lit the cauldron at the celebration venue in Saint-Dizier.

Haute-Marne and Saint-Dizier show their commitment to sport

The Olympic Torch Relay continued its exploration of eastern France on its forty-third stage, in the Haute-Marne. Located between the Champagne and Burgundy regions, this area is at the crossroads of Europe. The Haute-Marne is blessed with a generous and green natural environment that has transformed it into an extraordinary playground for sports enthusiasts from all horizons. Regulars and visitors alike enjoy the calm serenity of the rolling countryside, which is ideal for getting away from it all and pushing yourself to the limit. Whether in the great outdoors or in the heart of the numerous sports facilities, everyone can find something to satisfy their passion for sporting activities. The Haute-Marne area and town of Saint-Dizier are particularly committed to promoting sport, for both professionals and amateurs.
This long-standing commitment is also intended to be part of the future. The town of Saint-Dizier aspires to benefit from the legacy of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Indeed, it was one of the first towns to have its facilities branded with the “Land of the Games” label. Furthermore, on the day the Olympic Torch passed through its streets, the municipality inaugurated France’s largest active design trail, with an 8-km route on which visitors can walk, run, ride or even swim. This fun area, which is free and accessible to all, includes several facilities, such as a “pump track”, a military-grade obstacle course and a sprint track with a speed gun.

An immersion in history from Langres to Saint-Dizier

It was also a sporty day for the Olympic Torch Relay. It began in Langres, one of France’s most beautiful fortified towns, nicknamed the “Carcassonne of the North”. The Olympic Torch was carried in front of the Town Hall, the Saint-Mammès cathedral and the Porte des Moulins gate. The torchbearers were able to take in the sights at Bourbonne-les-Bains, a spa town renowned since the Antiquity, and in Nogent, famous for its dolmens and corner tower of its castle. Afterwards, the Olympic Torch Relay headed for Colombey-les-Deux-Églises. This town, highlighted thanks to the support of the Grand Est region, was a haven of peace for General de Gaulle, whose family home, La Boisserie, was situated here.

The Olympic Torch continued its journey through history as it passed near to the 19th century Chaumont viaduct and then the forges at Froncles. The industrial past was also given pride of place in Saint-Dizier, whose foundries were so popular during the Belle-Époque. Near to the Lac du Der lake, one of the largest artificial lakes in Europe, the Olympic Torch visited the Vert-Bois urban complex, was carried along the banks of the canal between the Champagne and Burgundy regions and stopped off in front of the theatre in Saint-Dizier. The celebration venue was set up a little further on, in the Parc du Jard.

Pride of place for weightlifting and the 114 torchbearers

Several hours earlier, in Langres, a collective relay took place. It was the second organised by the French Federation of Weightlifting in this town, where the discipline is particularly well established. Indeed, the chairman of the local club (Langres Haltérophilie Musculation), Jean-Louis Gudin, was the relay captain. After having been selected several times to represent the French team, he has been club chairman for more than 30 years. In total, there were 23 weightlifting enthusiasts present, including Rose Duchauffour, Amélie Balland, who takes part in the sport despite being disabled, plus Sylvain Besancenot and Dagmar Witkowski, both of whom are referees.

In total, 114 torchbearers took it in turns to carry the Olympic Torch along the routes of the Haute-Marne. In a region so conducive to sports, it was only logical that athletes from all walks of life were present. Such was the case for handballer Abdelkader Rahim, an Algerian international player born in Saint-Dizier, French para-shooting champion Thomas Mendez and also triathlete Nicolas Thevenin, who already boasts nine Ironman participations to his name. Jean-Michel Brun, a French wrestling champion in the 1970s, was also present. Having formerly been head of the French delegation at the Athens Olympics in 2004, he is currently the vice-chairman of the CNOSF (the French National Olympic and Sports Committee).

A “torch-kiss” between Florent Piétrus and Axel Clerget

Sport was in the spotlight throughout the day, right up to the final “torch-kiss” between the two torchbearers who brought the day to a close. The penultimate torchbearer was former basketballer Florent Piétrus, who was a member of the French national team alongside Tony Parker, crowned European champions in 2013 and bronze medallists at the World Championships a year later. Florent Piétrus then passed the Olympic Torch to Axel Clerget, a judoka who distinguished himself at the highest level: following a world team championship title in 2011, he won Olympic gold in the mixed team event at the most recent games in Tokyo. Axel is also a native of Saint-Dizier, which added to the excitement at the celebration venue as he lit the cauldron.

Alongside all the sportspeople, there were members of the general public with stories and commitments that reflect the values of the Olympics. The day’s first two torchbearers, Corentin Bandosz and Sarah Parrot, who are residents at the Foyer Montéclair specialised accommodation centre, are working hard to qualify for the Paralympic Games.

Their energy and determination contribute to making sport accessible to people with disabilities, which is a combat also championed by another torchbearer, Christophe Lattach, who is a sailing coach for people with disabilities. He crossed paths with Annie Cunnin, who is the chairwoman of a paragliding club dedicated to promoting cohesion and friendship. Eva Salvadori and Jérémy Jonval, two judo enthusiasts, who are former members of the French national team and currently heavily involved with their clubs, were also present.

Tomorrow, the roads of France will again be filled with smiles, joy and a celebratory spirit. The Olympic Torch Relay will continue its journey through eastern France by visiting the Meuse. Located in the heart of the Lorraine region, this land of history, nature and heritage is set to be buzzing all day, from Gondrecourt-le-Château to Verdun.

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