Torch Relay Stage 4: Sport, culture and emotions in Bouches-du-Rhône. PARIS 2024

The fourth leg of the Olympic Torch Relay has made another stop in the Bouches-du-Rhône. After the arrival of the Olympic Torch and the first stage in Marseille, other key sites in the region were highlighted on the way to Arles, the host city of the stage.

The departmental, regional and city authorities of Arles, as well as the official sponsors of the Olympic Torch Relay, Coca-Cola, Banque Populaire and Caisse d'Epargne, took part in the event. At the end of the day, multiple Paralympic table tennis medallist Stéphanie Mariage lit the Olympic cauldron. 

Another sunny day for the Olympic Torch. Since its arrival aboard the famous Belem, the Olympic Torch has enjoyed fine weather, ideal for continuing its long journey to the Opening Ceremony, on a day when it also returned to the Bouches-du-Rhône département. Two days after passing through Marseille and highlighting its iconic sites, 140 torchbearers shone the spotlight on all the wonders of this Mediterranean region. 

The morning began with the Olympic Torch passing in front of the Coca-Cola plant in Pennes-Mirabeau, to thank the employees of one of the sponsors of the Olympic Torch Relay. To mark the occasion, 24 employees took part in a team relay and a mini village was set up to celebrate the event. 

The day continued close to the coast at Cassis. Twenty individual torchbearers took the relay along the harbour, under the high cliffs that dominate the coastline. One of these torchbearers even carried the Olympic torch on a paddleboard for 200 metres from the Calanque de Port-Miou to the harbour.

The Olympic Torch continues its journey to Patis 74 days before the Opening Ceremony. PARIS 2024
The Olympic Torch continues its journey to Patis 74 days before the Opening Ceremony. PARIS 2024

The torch then made its way to Miramas and its stadium, famous for its nautical activities, before heading to Aix-en-Provence. After a stroll through the city centre, the torch reached the famous Cours Mirabeau and the fresh air around the Rotonde fountain. The convoy also travelled to Port-Saint-Louis-du-Rhône, a town that the Regional Council wanted to highlight, marking the entrance to the Camargue and its breathtaking panoramas. 

The day continued to Istres, Eygalières and its famous Saint-Sixt chapel, before returning to Arles. As France's largest commune - seven times the size of Paris - the route promised to be a sporting one, with a relay organised by the French Volleyball Federation to promote its 200,000 members of the federation. Former French national team coach Laurent Tillie and former international player Karine Salinas were the captains of this collective relay. 

Among the other athletes who carried the flame on the fourth leg after leaving Marseille were Virginie Dedieu, a three-time consecutive world synchronised swimming champion and bronze medallist in the duo competition at the Sydney Olympics, and Victoria Ravva, a former French national team volleyball player of Georgian descent.

Arles offered a culturally rich event as the Olympic Torch passed through the Musée départemental Arles Antiques Antiquity Museum, the museum dedicated to Van Gogh and then the museum devoted to history of the city (Musée Arlatan). It was also taken to the ancient theatre, the arenas and in front of the impressive Tour Luma tower. 

The Quai Lamartine, which overlooks the Rhône, was the setting for several events, including a performance by typical Provençal dancers from Arles, and another by a troupe of 28 dancers from 16 different nationalities. Former professional footballer Djibril Cissé, who won 41 caps for France and is now a DJ, set the tone with a set that delighted the quayside crowd.

One of France's most popular drag queens, Nicky Doll, took to the streets of Arles today. The presenter of Drag Race France, who uses her energy to build a more inclusive society and promote France internationally in the world's most prestigious drag competitions, was able to carry the Olympic Torch back to her home area of Bouches-du-Rhône. 

Para-sport was once again in the spotlight, as part of Paris 2024's vision to open up the Olympic Torch Relay to athletes and para-athletes. Among the torchbearers were Éric Dargent, who designed a prosthesis that enabled him to become world vice-champion in para-sport surfing, Romain Pecker-Goubin, a para-sport boxer who founded an association to use sport as a means of reconstruction and progress, Emma Reymond, a member of the French hearing impaired badminton team, and Nicolas Savant, a para-table tennis player. 

The last torchbearer of the day was Stéphanie Mariage. Born in Villers-Semeuse, she is a major para-sport table tennis champion who has won four medals at the Paralympic Games, two of them gold. On Monday, the Olympic Torch will continue its journey along the the Mediterranean coast, but a little further west, with a unique stage on the agenda: a triptych between three cities full of character: Millau, Sète and Montpellier.