The first torch for the Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay will be lit on Tuesday April 16 during a ceremony at the ancient site of Olympia, in the northwest Peloponnese. From there, the Olympic flame will journey to Athens to embark on the iconic three-mast French schooner “Belem.” This year marks the first time the torch’s transfer occurs via sea, crossing the Mediterranean to Marseille.

However, there’s considerable concern among those involved, as the ship must navigate the Mediterranean for 12 days to reach Marseille, with the torch continually lit.

Traditionally, the torch traveled from continent to continent aboard a plane, and always had a backup flame. This might explain why the director of the foundation managing the vessel sought to station three torch “guardians”.

Already departed from France, the iconic sailing vessel will make stops in Olbia in Sardinia, Catania, in Sicily and Katakolon, the nearest harbor to inland Olympia. Returning with torch bearers across the country, it will conclude its domestic journey in Athens.

The sea transfer from Piraeus to Marseille bears significant symbolism, reflecting the historical ties between the two cities. Marseille, founded 2,600 years ago as a Greek colony, and the oldest city in France.

The absence of French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife from the Olympic Flame Lighting Ceremony, hosted by the Hellenic Olympic Committee, was notable.

It is speculated that the absence of the French President was indicative of strained Greek-French relations reportedly linked to Athens’ refusal to send troops to Western Ukraine and Greece’s opting for the American arms market over the French.