Paris organizers receive Olympic flame in Athens ahead of relay

Actress Mary Mina, playing the role of high priestess, gives the torch to the president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee and member of the International Olympic Committee Spyros Capralos during the handover ceremony in Athens, Friday. [Louiza Vradi/Reuters]

The Paris Olympics flame has been formally handed to French organizers in the all-marble stadium in Athens where the first modern Games were held in Athens in 1896.

Greek water polo player Ioannis Fountoulis, the last in a long line of torchbearers, used the flame to light a cauldron at the Panathenaic Stadium. From there, it was delivered to Paris 2024 chief Tony Estanguet.

Several thousand fans and tourists sat in the stands of the horse-shaped marble stadium on a sun-drenched afternoon to observe the ceremony.

A few moments of suspense followed as assistants struggled to light the lantern that will carry the flame to France.

"It wants to stay in Greece," Estanguet joked.

Safely in the lantern, the flame will depart for France on Saturday on a 19th-century sailing ship across the Mediterranean Sea, to make landfall 12 days later in the southern...

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