Paris Olympics torch relay will involve 10,000 runners

There will be 10,000 torchbearers to carry the Olympic flame as it passes through some 60 French departments ahead of the 2024 Games, Paris Olympic organisers announced on Tuesday.

Paris Olympics torch relay will involve 10,000 runners
The Olympic Flame is relayed during the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, at the Olympic Stadium, in Tokyo, on July 23, 2021. (Photo by Franck FIFE / AFP)

After the flame is lit in the traditional ceremony in Olympia, Greece, it will arrive by sea in Marseille aboard the three-master Belem on May 8th.

From there it will travel across France on its way to the Olympic opening ceremony in the capital on July 26th.

There has been speculation that the Olympic flame will be placed on the Eiffel Tower, but the president of the organising committee, Tony Estanguet, told a press conference the final destination had not been decided.

“The Eiffel Tower has not been decided as the lighting location for the cauldron,” he said.

A novelty this time is “collective relays”, which could be groups of up to 24 people, with one carrying the torch.

There will be 3,000 collective and 7,000 individual torchbearers, including equal numbers of men and women aged 15 and over.

Each torchbearer will carry the flame for around 4 minutes over a distance of 200 metres.

A third of the torchbearers will be selected by the organising committee and the sports bodies, another third by relay sponsors Coca-Cola and French bank BPCE, another third by other Olympic partners, and the final 10 percent by the regions hosting the relay.

The International Olympic Committee forbids elected officials and religious figures carrying the flame.

Some French departments refused to take part, deeming the €180,000 cost prohibitive.

The organisers said there would be “an itinerant bubble” of security around the flame provided by the French gendarmes, police and local security forces.

The Paralympic torch relay, which will arrive in Paris on August 28 for the opening of the Paralympic Games, will involve 1,000 torchbearers, and will be shorter.

The record for most torch bearers is 20,000 ahead of the Beijing summer Games in 2008. That relay passed through 19 countries, where it was carried by more than 1,300 bearers, before reaching China. It covered a total of 85,000 miles on its 130 day journey.

For the last Summer Olympics in Japan in 2021, the Olympic torch relay was banned from public thoroughfares in many departments, including Tokyo, because of Covid. For the same reason the relay ahead of the 2022 Winter Games was reduced to three stages in Beijing.

At the London Olympics in 2013, 8,000 people relayed the flame.

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France angers UN after announcing hijab ban for Olympic athletes

The UN stressed on Tuesday it was opposed to most dress codes for women, after France barred its athletes from wearing the Muslim hijab during the 2024 Paris Olympics.

France angers UN after announcing hijab ban for Olympic athletes

“No-one should impose on a woman what she needs to wear or not wear,” United Nations rights office spokeswoman Marta Hurtado told reporters in Geneva.

Hurtado’s comment came after the French sports minister said the country’s athletes would be barred from wearing headscarves during the Games, in line with the country’s strict rules on secularism.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Does France really have a hijab ban?

French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera repeated on Sunday that the government was opposed to any display of religious symbols during sporting events.

“What does that mean? That means a ban on any type of proselytising. That means absolute neutrality in public services,” she told France 3 television.

“The France team will not wear the headscarf.”

Hurtado did not address France’s stance directly.

But she stressed that the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ruled out discriminatory practices.

“Any state party to the convention — in this case France — has an obligation to … modify social or cultural patterns which are based on the idea of the inferiority or superiority of either sexes,” Hurtado said.

“Discriminatory practices against a group can have harmful consequences,” she pointed out.

“That is why … restrictions on expressions of religions or beliefs, such as attire choices, are only acceptable under really specific circumstances,” she explained.

That, she said, meant circumstances “that address legitimate concerns of public safety, public order, or public health or morals in a necessary and proportionate fashion”.

In France, the issue of religious dress goes to the heart of the country’s strict rules on secularism.

These are intended to keep the state neutral in religious matters, while guaranteeing citizens the right to freely practice their religion.

France’s laws prohibit the wearing of “ostentatious” religious symbols in some contexts, such as in state schools and by civil servants.

It outlawed full-face coverings in 2010.

In June, France’s Council of State upheld a ban on women footballers wearing the hijab.