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Olympic torchbearer delighted to be among the chosen 10,000

Natalie Carney in Marseille

Europe;Marseille, France

It's early morning in the southern French port city of Marseille. A crowd has gathered at the base of Notre-Dame de la Garde basilica, a beautiful 19th century Roman Catholic Church perched high up on a hill overlooking the city.

Lucie Dourlens and her three children are among those anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Olympic flame. For the Dourlens clan, the occasion is even more special because Lucie's husband Arnaud will be one of the torch bearers carrying it.

"We are very excited," smiles Lucie, her children jumping up and down in excitement next to her. "Compared to everyday life, this is something that is very extraordinary. It's an event that will happen only once in the life of my husband and the whole family."

Arnaud Dourlens laps up the crowd's applause. /CGTN
Arnaud Dourlens laps up the crowd's applause. /CGTN

Arnaud Dourlens laps up the crowd's applause. /CGTN

Within minutes Arnaud arrives and receives the flame from the torch bearer before him. The excited public cheer, while Lucie and the children snap numerous photos on their smartphones. With the lit torch in hand, Arnaud jogs about 200 meters, waving at the crowd along the way, until it is time to pass the flame onto the next torch bearer.

He described the experience as a truly "unique opportunity."

This same process will be repeated all across France and its overseas territories until mid-July, as roughly 10,000 people help carry the flame along a portion of its planned 12,000 kilometer journey to the capital Paris for the opening of the summer Olympic Games.

Marseille resident François, who took in the passing of the flame at Marseille's Palais Longchamp, said "it's (an opportunity) to have a big moment all together, to vibrate at the same time and to enjoy the same thing at the same moment, which is something that people need at these times."

Fellow resident Chantal told CGTN that "the flame has such a special meaning. It's great that we can all be here to celebrate it."

A beaming Arnaud holding the torch. /CGTN
A beaming Arnaud holding the torch. /CGTN

A beaming Arnaud holding the torch. /CGTN


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The Olympic flame is a universal symbol of the games and the unity they represent, says Arnaud.

"Definitely there are a lot of values behind Olympic games that resonate for me around excellence," says Arnaud. "Also around being able to have a high performance. And also it's something around the world - a kind of union, a time of peace, a time of being together. You can compete and be friends and I think in this world that means a lot."

In early May, more than 230,000 onlookers descended on Marseille to welcome the arrival of the Paris 2024 Olympic flame from Greece, where the precursor to the games originated back in 776 BC.

Proving that age is only a number, 83-year-old Colette Cataldo, also a lucky bearer of the flame, compared the experience to "winning the lottery."

Other notable torch bearers include football legend Didier Drogba, former NBA star Tony Parker and captain of the Ukrainian Olympic delegation, gymnast Maria Vysotchanska.

"I am really proud to share what is France (with the world)," concludes Arnaud "and also bring the value of the Olympics in France - it's a great time for me."

And surely for the entire country.‌ The flame will continue its tour, being seen by the people of some 450 communities before arriving in Paris on July 16.

Olympic torchbearer delighted to be among the chosen 10,000

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