Greece hands Olympic flame to 2024 Paris Games hosts

Greece on Friday handed over the Olympic flame of the 2024 Games to Paris organisers in a ceremony at the Athens marble stadium where the competition was revived nearly 130 years ago.

Hellenic Olympic Committee chairman Spyros Capralos handed the torch to Paris Olympics chief organiser Tony Estanguet at the Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

Estanguet in a speech said the goal for Paris was to organise "spectacular but also more responsible Games, which will contribute towards a more inclusive society."

Organisers want to ensure "that the biggest event in the world plays an accelerating role in addressing the crucial questions of our time," said Estanguet, a member of France's Athens 2004 Olympics team who won gold in the slalom canoe event.

A duo of French champions, Beijing 2022 ice dance gold medallist Gabriella Papadakis and former swimmer Beatrice Hess, one of the most successful Paralympians in history, carried the flame during the final relay leg into the Panathenaic Stadium.

Nana Mouskouri, the 89-year-old Greek singer with a worldwide following, performed the anthems of France and Greece at the ceremony.

After spending the night at the French embassy in Athens, the flame on Saturday will begin its journey to France on board the 19th-century three-masted barque Belem.

On Sunday, the ship will pass from the Corinth Canal -- a feat of 19th century engineering constructed with the contribution of French banks and engineers.

The Belem is set to reach Marseille -- a city founded by ancient Greek colonists around 600 BCE -- on May 8.

Over 1,000 vessels will accompany its approach to the harbour, local officials have said.

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