Stage 25 — Torch Relay — A wealth of nature, ocean, tennis and thrills between the Loire River and Atlantic Ocean!

Photo credit : Paris 2024 / Sébastien Salom-Gomis / Sipa Press

This Wednesday, the Olympic Torch Relay made its way through an area rich in diversity, thanks to its coastline, vineyards, local know-how and culture. The day witnessed a collective relay dedicated to tennis, with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in particular but also, as the day went by, actress Virginie Ledoyen or also former footballer Christian Karembeu. Horse rider Roger-Yves Bost, a gold medallist at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016, lit the celebration cauldron at the end of the day.

Pride of place for the Ancenis area and La Baule-Escoublac

The Olympic Torch Relay continued to explore western France today, spending a last day in the Pays de la Loire region. The driving forces behind this stage were several towns and a federation of municipalities, which rallied together to ensure that the whole population were able to enjoy and share this outstanding moment. The presence of large crowds all along the route showed just what a big success it was.

The route began in Saint-Sébastien-sur-Loire where the Olympic Torch set off from in front of the town hall, then passed through Square Verdun before continuing on to the Stade René Massé stadium. It then headed to the Pays d’Ancenis federation of municipalities. The Olympic Torch was carried alongside the Loire River in the village of Ingrandes-le-Fresne-sur-Loire and then visited the gateway to the vineyards around Nantes in Vertou.

It also visited the 18th century mansion in Vallons-de-L‘Erdre, crossed through Basse-Goulaine to the Stade Henri Michel stadium and discovered the Saint Mathurin chapel in Ligné. Then it went on to the final step of the day: La Baule-Escoublac. Just like tens of thousands of holiday makers each year, the Olympic Torch took in the seafront and the magnificent panorama offered by Europe’s largest bay, at a length of 9 km. It was then carried to Place des Salines where the ceremony to finish the day took place.

A collective relay dedicated to tennis

A collective relay organised by the French Federation of Tennis took place. With the French open underway at Roland Garros, the sport is on a roll, with more than a million club members of all ages, as demonstrated by the relay’s captain: Claudine Contoz is 81 years old and has been playing tennis for almost 70 years! She recently won the world team championships in the category for 80-year-olds! Alongside her were ex-international tennis player and former world number 5 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, wheelchair tennis players Gaëtan Menguy and Geoffray Jasiak, as well as emerging young players Lucas Marionneau and Simon Quelard, not forgetting chairman Jean-Philippe Raoult and treasurer Bernadette Rousseau at La Baule Tennis Club. Activities and introductions to the sport were also organised by the Federation throughout the day.

In addition to these tennis aficionados, 141 torchbearers carried the Olympic Torch this Wednesday, including other sportspersons renowned in their discipline, such as football world cup winner in 1998 Christian Karembeu, para-swimmer Philippe Revillon, a four times medallist at the Games, and tennis player Edouard-Roger Vasselin. The last torchbearer who had the honour of concluding the day was horse rider Roger-Yves Bost, one of the best show jumpers in France and a European champion in 2013, as well as an Olympic champion at the age of 50 at the Rio Games. He shared top billing on the day with actress Virginie Ledoyen who also carried the Olympic Torch in La Baule.

Many members of the general public with inspiring stories to tell were also present, such as Nabila Huruguen, who runs workshops promoting sport as a powerful tool for social integration and devotes her time to supporting athletes seeking financial backing, or Magali Houguet, a teacher with a passion for History / Geography / Moral and Civic Education, who co-authored the ‘Generation 2024’ application for her school. Other torchbearers on the day are committed to sport on a daily basis, like François Ance, who, after participating in para-swimming, became a boccia referee and member of the Pays de La Loire region’s para-sports committee, or Vincent Dubois: this table tennis enthusiast for more than 40 years will be taking part in 2024 in the discipline’s veterans’ world championships in Italy. The day also witnessed the Olympic Torch Relay’s first marriage proposal: Raphaël Vriet, a torchbearer on the roads through Saint-Sebastien-sur-Loire, took advantage to ask his partner if she would carry the torch of their love with him together forever.

All the torchbearers flew the flag high for Olympic values and helped to move the fervour generated by this event up a notch. The excitement should once again be palpable this Thursday as the Olympic Torch returns to Brittany and heads for the Morbihan, for a trip between Lorient and Vannes.