En Route to Paris 2024: The Olympic Flame’s Cultural Odyssey

The Initiation of the Start of the Olympic Flame's Expedition for Paris 2024. Image: Olympics

By Jessica A. Dennehy

The Olympic Flame became an iconic symbol of the Olympic and Paralympic Games during the summer games of Amsterdam in 1928. Symbolizing the light of spirit, knowledge, and life, it represents the connection between the ancient and modern games. The Olympic Flame is always kindled in Olympia, Greece, under the strict authority of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). After being lit months in advance of the Games, the Flame is relayed through land, air, and/or sea by a plethora of celebrities, Olympic athletes, and even volunteers. The Olympic Torch Relay, the only relay without competition or prize, marks the unification of people for the Olympic Games.

The first torch for the Paris 2024 Games was lit not by a Bic lighter, but by the rays of the sun on April 16th, 2024, at the ceremonial location in Olympia, Greece. It was then transported to Athens aboard the three-masted Belem to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Marseille. Starting on May 8th, 2024, the Olympic Flame began its journey through France, experiencing the best the country has to offer. Thousands of “runners,” the primary means of Flame transportation, will carry the torch through over 400 towns across France and its affiliated territories. The journey will culminate in Paris for the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, with the final runners entering the stadium to light the cauldron. Once the cauldron is lit, the games can formally begin.

Along with the Parisian stadium, the Flame will visit sites such as the Lascaux caves, the Palace of Versailles, and even Mont Saint-Michel, the island which became a UNESCO site. Even the D-Day Landing Beaches and châteaux of the Loire Valley will be warmed by the Olympic Flame’s embrace. On July 26th, the Flame is scheduled to arrive at the bank of the River Seine, marking the first time in Olympic history that the opening ceremony takes place not only outside a stadium, but also on a river bank. The event on the river, which is expected to last around four hours, will be illuminated by the dying rays of the sun, moonlight, camera lights, and the eternal flame that signifies the beginning of the iconic Games.