Olympic Torch Stage 28: The jewels of French Guiana start the Ocean Relay. PARIS 2024

After a month-long journey across mainland France, the Olympic Torch Relay arrived in French Guiana on Sunday to start the Ocean Relay, becoming the first French overseas territory to welcome it for the first time in its history.

It was a day full of symbols and breathtaking images, from the Amazon rainforest to the Atlantic coast, highlighting the beauty of the landscapes and local sources of pride, such as the Kourou space centre. The French Judo Federation organised the collective relay with local celebrities as torchbearers, including Lucie Décosse, Alicia Aylies and Malia Metella, who lit the cauldron in Cayenne. 

The Torch Relay continues its journey to meet as many people as possible. The overseas territories, which contribute so much to the fabric of France through their champions, their cultures and their history, are an integral part of the celebrations. French Guiana, the only French territory in South America, was the first to be visited.   

With a total surface area of 84,000 m2, it is the largest French overseas territory and is located between the Amazon rainforest and the Atlantic coast. It boasts an exceptional variety of landscapes and a rich historical heritage. 

The relay began in Camopi, in the Amazon rainforest. The torch was lit at the end of a symbolic Indian ceremony, before being carried in a pirogue down the Oyapock River to Saint-Laurent du Maroni, the infamous site of the former penal colony 'Transportation', built in the 17th century and now a historical monument. It was a symbolic event, as the celebrations for the abolition of slavery will take place on Monday.

The Olympic Torch brought pride and celebration to French Guiana. PARIS 2024
The Olympic Torch brought pride and celebration to French Guiana. PARIS 2024

The Torch then visited a source of pride for the Guianese people: the Guiana Space Centre in Kourou. Since its creation in 1964, it has been a strategic assembly point under the supervision of the European Space Agency, where rockets and satellites are launched by operators from all over the world. It passed by the imposing model of the Ariane V rocket before continuing along the road where European flags flutter in the breeze. 

It then went on to Saint-Georges de l'Oyapock, where it made a nautical detour along the Oyapock river, which forms the natural border with Brazil. The route also took in the centre of Kourou, the Plage de la Cocoteraie beach, Tonate-Macouria and Matoury, where it was taken to the Lucie Décosse martial arts centre, named after the London 2012 Olympic champion who carried the Olympic torch today. 

The relay finished in the capital city of Cayenne, which combines French, Brazilian and West Indian influences. After a visit to the aquatic centre, the Chaînes brisées memorial to slavery and the Fort Cépérou hill, it arrived at the Place des Palmistes. 

124 torchbearers carried the Torch, starting with Nicolas Chaumier, an active sports trainer. Local champions joined the celebrations, such as judoka Lucie Décosse, athlete Christiane Johnny (French Guiana's first 100m champion) and former long jumper Riquel Bruno. Other athletes in attendance included Danis Civil, who will represent France at Paris 2024 in breakdancing, and Kayssia Hudson, a rising star from French Guiana in the triple jump.

The Ocean Relay, a revolutionary and necessary experience. PARIS 2024
The Ocean Relay, a revolutionary and necessary experience. PARIS 2024

They all carried the Torch as did Alicia Aylies, who was Miss France in 2017 and is now a very popular singer in French Guiana. At the end of the day, it was Malia Metella, silver medallist in the 50m freestyle at the Athens Games, who lit the cauldron in front of an enthusiastic crowd. 

Many of the torchbearers had inspiring stories to tell, such as Mireille Jauregui, a French Guyanese who has been a pirogue enthusiast for over 10 years, and Lili Piquemal, an up-and-coming young runner and trail athlete, who were warmly applauded by the crowds. In Cayenne, they watched the relay of Émilie William, a key figure in local women's football, and Yann Dejou, the inventor of tandem paragliding and founder of a kite-surfing club. 

The collective relay was organised by the French Judo Federation in the territorial community centre of French Guiana to highlight all those involved in the sport and related disciplines such as jujitsu and kendo. François Pina, a coach at the Cayenne martial arts school for more than 20 years, was the captain. He was joined by 23 other judokas, including the oldest, Serge Antourel, and the youngest, Enzo Fils Aime (13 years old).