Torch Relay Stage 38: Loire and Saint-Etienne on the move. PARIS 2024

The Olympic torch relay has reached the Loire for its 38th stage and set off early this morning to explore the department's roads on a route that took it from Charlieu to Saint-Étienne, with stops in Montbrison and Saint-Chamond.

In Roanne, an adapted sports Team Relay got the ball rolling, while in Saint-Étienne, the day's festivities took place near the headquarters of the AS Saint-Étienne football club. More than 150 runners shared their enthusiasm with the crowds lining the streets. Jean-Michel Larqué, a former international footballer, lit the cauldron. 

The festivities on the Loire began the day before with a stunning evening concert for 5,000 people in the city of Saint-Étienne for the Fête de la Musique. It took place in the forecourt of the Geoffroy Guichard stadium, where the festivities were held. 

The Torch set off to discover a hilly corner of the world that attracts athletes all year round. Skiers flock to the department in winter, while cyclists take to the roads as soon as the temperature rises. 'Foodies' are also spoilt for choice in the Loire, with a variety of flavours ranging from cheeses with character to the famous Duculty dry sausage. 

The Torch started in Roanne, where it visited the town's historic squares - Place des Promenades Populle and Place Louis Flandre - before heading to the banks of the Loire. It lit up some of the department's most iconic sites, including the the Chapel of Saint Eugenia, the Benedictine Abbey of Charlieu, the Jardin d'Allard in Montbrison and the racecourse at Feurs, well known to horse racing enthusiasts.

In Saint-Chamond, a town famous for its medieval remains, the Torch passed by the modern Arena Saint-Étienne Métropole, the Théâtre de Verdure and the Place de la Liberté. In Firminy, Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation and the Château des Bruneaux were not to be missed.

The stage ended in Saint-Étienne. The Torch passed through the Cour Fauriel, the Museum of Art and Industry and the Museum of Minin before stopping at the Cité du Design to promote the city as part of the UNESCO Network of Creative Cities. The final stages took place at the Geoffroy Guichard stadium, the temple of football where Les Verts have made generations of fans dream. 

The last runner returned to his old hunting grounds. Jean-Michel Larqué, a towering figure from Saint-Etienne's golden age, lit the cauldron in front of an adoring crowd. An iconic midfielder for Les Verts from 1966 to 1977, he was part of the team that reached the European final in 1976 and was a key player for France. He also reached the quarter-finals of the 1968 Olympic Games with Les Bleus.

Among the more than 150 torchbearers were Mélina Robert-Michon, Olympic discus silver medallist and French record holder, who will compete at Paris 2024. There was also French paratriathlon champion Mattéo Ruberti, French equestrian team silver medallist Coraline Juvanon, veteran judo world champion Corine Cucchiara and Ambre Dusautier, who excelled in swimming at the World Transplant Games.

The Geoffroy Guichard stadium changed football for the emotion of the Olympic Torch. PARIS 2024
The Geoffroy Guichard stadium changed football for the emotion of the Olympic Torch. PARIS 2024

They were joined by sports enthusiasts such as Aurélie Lefevre, a passionate paraglider; Max Bouchet-Virette, who has worked for many sporting events, including the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville and football and rugby World Cups; and 73-year-old Yves Laval, a unique character who has taken part in 275 triathlons and duathlons, has won the French championship three times and is still practising the sport.

Many of the torchbearers had inspiring personal stories. The torch was carried by 11-year-old Isaac Djeroro, who has been elected to the Givors Youth Council; Mourad Abdellaoui, who works tirelessly to promote research into Prader-Willi syndrome; and Mélanie Volle, the oldest person on the stage at 102, who deserves admiration for her fight against Austrofascism and her role in the French Resistance.

The French Adapted Sports Federation (FFSA), which promotes and facilitates physical activity and sport for people with physical or mental disabilities, organised the Team Relay event in Roanne. The FFSA has organised numerous sports events of this kind since 1983. 

Each of the 24 relay runners represents a discipline. The captain, Nicolas Virapin, is a disabled athlete who won four gold medals at the 2019 Global Games (a competition for people with intellectual disabilities). He was joined by dancer, swimmer and petanque player Sophie Kirk, star swimmer and cross-country skier Clément Colomby and Thomas Bay, who won a medal at the French Para Skiing Championships.