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PARIS2024

Stage 26 – Torch Relay – The Olympic Torch celebrates all the colours of the Morbihan, from Lorient to Vannes

Photo credit : Paris 2024 / Cédric Michel / Sipa Press

The Olympic Torch made an enthusiastic return to Brittany today! It was an opportunity to put the spotlight on the Morbihan, an area facing the Atlantic Ocean which draws its appeal from its coastline. Among the highlights of the day were a collective relay organised by the French Federation for Para-sport in Lorient and 124 torchbearers taking it in turns to carry the Olympic Torch, including French women’s international footballer and multi-title winning striker Eugénie Le Sommer who lit the celebration cauldron at the end of the day in Vannes.

 

A route between land and sea

The Olympic Torch continued its progress through western France on the 26th stage of the relay. It carried on discovering the Atlantic coast by exploring the Morbihan. With its 905 km of coastline, its islands, its heritage sites and its ports, the department looks out to the ocean as its name suggests: in the local dialect of Brittany, “Mor-bihan” means “little sea”. This strong link was underlined throughout the day. The Olympic Torch began its route in Lorient, the 3rd biggest city in Brittany, nicknamed “the city of five ports”.

Afterwards, it headed inland into an area that is brimming with chapels, megaliths and manor houses that have all left their mark on the history of the Morbihan. In Sainte-Anne-d’Auray, the Olympic Torch passed in front of the sanctuary, the basilica and the Scala Sancta (holy stairway), following in the footsteps of many visitors who come to see this site each year, because it is the third most visited pilgrimage site in France. The relay then moved on to Pontivy before passing near to two impressive castles: Rochefort-en-Terre castle built in the 12th century on a rocky outcrop and the Louis XII style Josselin castle, which is listed as a historical monument.

At last, back to the sea! The Olympic Torch was carried on board a vessel of the French lifeboat organisation and was transported to the Ile-aux-Moines Island, the pearl of the Gulf of Morbihan. It was taken along past the pretty, colourful huts on the Plage du Dréhen beach before returning to Vannes, where the celebration site was set up on Quai Eric Tabarly.

Throughout its journey, the Olympic Torch Relay convoy was cheered on by many spectators who had come to encourage the local relay members. The crowds were able to enjoy the entertainment provided by the official sponsors of the Olympic Torch Relay, namely Coca-Cola, Banque Populaire and Caisse d’Epargne, who were present with their colourful floats to liven up the roadsides.

 

Pride of place for para-sport on the collective relay

In keeping with the special nature of the Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay, a collective relay was organised today, during the morning in Lorient, between Avenue du Général De Gaulle and Les Halles de Merville. It was dedicated to the para-sport movement, which has been growing steadily since the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to the efforts of the French Federation of Para-sport. Alongside the relay captain, 14-year-old Léonie Saliou – who is a wheelchair fencing athlete -, 23 other members of clubs enrolled with the federation carried the Olympic Torch which symbolises a more inclusive society that is making sport accessible to all. Among them were Wendy Bazire, who is a para-horse rider, Laura Kersuzan, who takes part in para-football and para-cycling, François James, who is involved in sport for the deaf and hearing-impaired with two Deaflympic participations in basketball to his name, and Grégory Leray, a para-cyclist and club chairman.

More than 124 torchbearers took it in turns to illuminate the Morbihan. The first to enjoy this honour at the start of the day was the tennis table player from Lorient Arnaud Fravolo. Many members of the general public with a passion for sport and a desire to pass on the values inherent to the Olympics (inclusion, solidarity, diversity) were also present. Such was the case for swimmer Cléo Renou, a member of the French adapted sport team, Bénédicte Le Moal, who raises awareness and collects funds to fight against breast cancer via “La Vannetaise”, which is an annual sports event, and Florian Tournebise, who is a goalkeeper for an inclusive football club in London and who devotes a significant amount of his commitment to fighting against homophobia.

 

Eugénie Le Sommer wraps up the day in style

Two figures who are well known to spectators and listeners were also among the torchbearers today: renowned reporter François-Xavier Ménage and Olympics specialist Alexandre Boyon. It was another celebrity who had the honour of lighting the celebration cauldron, namely Eugénie Le Sommer. The international women’s footballer, who is also the leading scorer in history for the French women’s team, boasts 8 Champions League titles and 12 French Championship titles. Eugénie began playing her sport in the clubs of the Morbihan, where here family still lives. Her presence at the celebration site met with great enthusiasm among the spectators present.

 

Tomorrow, the relay will head to another part of Brittany: the Finistère. The Olympic Torch will discover a spot popular with surfers (the Pointe de la Torche cape), other sites appreciated by hikers (the Point du Raz cape and Mont Saint-Michel-de-Brasparts) and will visit the historical city centre of Quimper. The day will finish in Brest where the celebration cauldron will be lit. The Olympic Torch will then board the Maxi Banque Populaire XI trimaran. It is aboard this giant multihull, one of the quickest sailing boats in the world, that it will set off for an unprecedented crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, to kick off the ocean relay, enabling the Olympic Torch to light up 5 French overseas territories.