The Olympic Torch Relay arrives in the Loiret and Orleans

In the Loiret, the Olympic Torch Relay explored an area that is rich in contrasts and where history, traditions and a natural environment that is as diverse as it is generous, blend together harmoniously. Its route took it through the agricultural plains of the Beauce, known as “France’s granary”. It also visited the wild nature reserves of the Sologne and, on the way to Orléans, it explored several picturesque villages with undeniable charm, such as those of old Gâtinais province.

The life of luxury experienced by the Olympic Torch Relay in the Loir-et-Cher and its castles plus stately mansions continued at the start of the day. It was in the heart of the wooded gardens of the Château de Malesherbes that this 53rd stage began. The route through Le Malesherbois passed along Avenue Lévis Mirepoix to the sports hall named after Alain Mimoun, an athlete who won the marathon at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956.

The adventure continued in Sully-sur-Loire and its castle, which is a must-see and also the eastern gateway to the Loire Valley, a region listed as UNESCO world heritage. After a stop in the parkland around the edifice, the Olympic Torch then headed to Montargis, nicknamed “Venice of the Gâtinais” due to its canals and picturesque bridges, which the torchbearers were able to appreciate as they headed form the Stade Champfleuri stadium to the Pont Saint-Roch bridge along the Route des Sept Frères.

In Neuville-aux-Bois, the convoy breathed in the fresh air of the Beauce agricultural plains, setting off from Place du Général Leclerc to the seat of Neuville Sports Football. The afternoon got off to a flying start with the arrival of three parachutists at the start in Gien. The Olympic Torch Relay took in the sights of the famous Gien pottery works, which was founded in 1821 and went on to become one of the most important in Europe. It then discovered the Château de Gien manor and then crossed the Loire River to Place du Maréchal Foch. In Meung-sur-Loire, the torchbearers made their way through Place du Maupas, then visited the castle before moving on to the Parc du Quai Jeanne d’Arc, by which point it was time to head to Orléans.

A collective relay for volleyball

The Olympic Torch Relay’s journey through Orléans began at Parc Léon Chenault, before it lit up the emblematic Pont George V bridge, the quays along the Loire River and Orléans’ theatre. The cortege finished the day at Place du Martroi, a venue renowned for the Statue of Joan of Arc, a listed historical monument, but also thanks to the sporting events put on there each year by the French Federation of Volleyball (FFV).

The federation took advantage of the occasion to organise its second collective Olympic Torch Relay. Karine Salinas, a former player for France’s women’s team, was its captain. She played 164 matches for the Blues, winning a bronze medal at the Mediterranean Games in 2001, and in Orléans she led a delegation of 24 champions, club members, referees and volunteers from the discipline. It was a moment that set the joyful, enthusiastic and unifying tone for the celebrations afterwards at the esplanade on Boulevard Alexandre Martin, the site chosen for the celebration venue.

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Orléans lights up to the rhythm of the Cultural Olympics!

A vibrant and rhythmic welcome awaited the Olympic Torch on Boulevard Alexandre Martin, where Lou Orblin celebrated the 53rd stage of the relay with a unique performance. The innovative dancer boasts an exceptional background, having trained in both ballet and breakdancing! It is an original mix, enabling her to push back the boundaries of her art and offer performances as daring as they are captivating for spectators.

The watching crowds were won over by the dancer’s technical ability, part of a project called the Cultural Olympics led by the National Choreography Centre in Orléans, which is run by Maud Le Pladec, who will also be in charge of the dances at the Paris 2024 opening and closing ceremonies. The choreographer’s aim is to bring together young people, different generations and the diversity of the population by using the body and its movements as a means of expression. Based on Lou Orblin’s inspiring and acclaimed performance, this is set to be a success.

140 torchbearers with Mona Francis

Almost 140 torchbearers took it in turns to carry the Olympic Torch today, with regional champions rubbing shoulders with members of the general public boasting inspiring stories. Local judoka Laurent Jeuffroy was one of the day’s first torchbearers. The three times judo kata world champion and seven times European champion is actively involved in the development of his sport as a coach. After him, 14-year-old Fiona Tuvee, already an award-winning young reporter, took over.

In Sully sur Loire, the Olympic Torch was handed over to Stéphane Goudou. The Loiret native and wheelchair tennis champion collected many titles throughout his career. He was part of the French wheelchair tennis team at the Paralympic Games in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016, winning several medals. Handball player Yoann Perrin, who played for Septors du Saran Loiret Handball club for 20 years, was part of the cortege in Gien.

In Orléans, one of the torchbearers received an especially warm welcome, namely 100-year-old Maurice Chatelet who has lived a very full life. He has devoted a great part of his life to sport and volunteering, as either a sports teacher, chairman of the regional Olympic and sports committee, treasurer of the French Federation of Gymnastics or founder of the first handball club in Orléans. It was then the turn of Maxence Legendre, who took part in organising the para-badminton French championships in 2019. At the end of the day, the Olympic Torch was handed over to Mona Francis to light the celebration cauldron. Mona, the para-triathlon European Champion in 2022, has been involved since the beginning in the Olympic Torch Relay. She is one of its captains alongside Laure and Florent Manaudou as well as Dimitri Pavadé.

On Thursday 11th July, the Olympic Torch will be present in the Yonne area. The route of the relay will put the spotlight on its natural landscapes and exceptional cultural heritage. Several castles will have pride of place before the Olympic Torch Relay concludes the day Auxerre, where the torchbearers will visit the legendary Abbé Deschamps stadium, home to the city’s football club. A journey along the banks of the Yonne River will bring the Olympic Torch to the Parc de Roscoff, which is the final destination of the 54th stage. The celebration cauldron will be lit just 15 days before the start of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

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