Olympic flame relay sets off in Marseille, offering 'solidarity' with Ukraine

The Olympic torch relay began in Marseille on Thursday with the port city's football legend Basile Boli taking the flame in front of the iconic basilica of Notre-Dame de la Garde before passing it on to a number of other celebrity sports stars including Ukrainian gymnast Mariia Vysochanska.

France's former NBA great Tony Parker was also among the 200 people who will carry the torch in Marseille along with skier Cyprien Sarrazin who collected the flame from Vysochanska.

The 21-year-old from Lviv, whose father is fighting at the front against the Russian invasion, was 'captain' for the day of a collective relay of 28 athletes, with one representative from each of the 27 countries of the European Union including Poland's three-time reigning Olympic hammer champion Anita Wlodarczyk.

The relay "is a way of emphasising our solidarity with Ukraine... at a time when they are suffering a terrible war of aggression," said French sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra.

"This is a sign of unity, hope and solidarity, we want them to win".

Former French international Boli, who scored the only goal in Marseille's victory over AC Milan in the 1993 European Champion Clubs' Cup final, set off at 8:20am (0620 GMT) just beneath the famous golden statue of the "Good Mother", which watches over France's second-largest city.

"It makes the heart beat and it's fantastic," said Boli.


Read more on FRANCE 24 English

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