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Paris 2024 torch lit in ancient Olympia, relay under way

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Paris 2024 Olympics - Olympic Flame Lighting Ceremony - Ancient Olympia, Greece - April 16, 2024 Greek actress Mary Mina, playing the role of High Priestess, lights the flame during the Olympic Flame lighting ceremony for the Paris 2024 Olympics. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

The torch for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games was lit in ancient Olympia in a traditional ceremony on Tuesday, marking the final stretch of the seven-year preparations for the Games’ start on July 26.

Greek actress Mary Mina, playing the role of high priestess, lit the torch using a backup flame instead of a parabolic mirror that is normally used, due to cloudy skies, for the start of a relay in Greece and France.

It will culminate with the lighting of the Olympic flame in the French capital at the opening ceremony. Paris will host the summer Olympics for a third time after 1900 and 1924.

“In these difficult times we are living through, with wars and conflicts on the rise, people are fed up with all the hate, the aggression and negative news they are facing day in and day out,” International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach said in his speech.

“We are longing for something which brings us together, something that is unifying, something that gives us hope. The Olympic flame that we are lighting today is the symbol of this hope.”

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The IOC has cleared the way for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete at the Olympics despite the ongoing war in Ukraine but they will do so as neutral athletes with no national flag or anthem, a decision that angered Moscow.

French President Emmanuel Macron also said last week Russia would be asked to observe a ceasefire in Ukraine during the Paris Olympics. The Kremlin said Ukraine might use it as an opportunity to regroup and rearm.

Suspending armed conflicts under an Olympic truce during the Games was a standard practice in ancient Greece.

TORCH RELAY

The high priestess then lit the torch of the first runner of the relay, Greece’s Olympic rowing champion Stefanos Ntouskos.

After a short run he then handed the flame on to France’s three-time Olympic medallist in swimming and head of Paris’ Olympic torch relay, Laure Manaudou, as the representative of the host city.

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The flame will be officially handed over to Paris Games organisers in Athens’s Panathenaic stadium, site of the first modern Games in 1896, on April 26 after an 11-day relay across Greece.

It will then depart the next day for France on board a three-masted ship, the ‘Belem’ where it will arrive on May 8 in Marseille, with up to 150,000 people expected to attend the ceremony in the southern city’s Old Port.

The last torch bearer in Marseille will climb on the roof of the Velodrome stadium on May 9, organisers said.

Marseille, founded by the Greek settlers of Phocaea around 600 BC, will host the sailing competitions.

The French torch relay will last 68 days and will end in Paris with the lighting of the Olympic flame on July 26.

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-Reuters

Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

Olympics

Olympics set to lose largest sponsor

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Russia’s ‘Friendship Games’ are politically motivated and violate Olympic Charter says IOC

After Paris 2024, the Olympic Games may lose Toyota, one of the Games’ main sponsors. Japan’s Kyodo News report that Toyota will end its sponsorship contract with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after this year’s games in Paris. The report cited unidentified sources close to the matter.

Toyota’s deal, announced in 2015, is believed to be the largest sponsorship agreement ever signed by the IOC. At the time, Japanese media reported that it would be worth $835 million.

According to Kyodo’s report, sources at Toyota were unhappy with how the IOC has used the money. The automaker believes the committee is not doing enough to support the athletes and promote the games.

During the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2021, the IOC was criticized for not doing enough to support the mental health of its competitors.

Toyota sources told Kyodo that the company would like to continue sponsoring the Paralympic games. The IOC, however, requires its partners to support all its events. The main sponsors of the Olympic Games are classified as TOP – The Olympic Partners.

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Toyota is one of just 15 “TOP” sponsors as part of The Olympic Partner program. TOP is the highest level of sponsorship for the games and is limited to one per industry. Other brands include Coca-Cola, Samsung, Intel, Corona Cero, and Procter & Gamble.

Toyota pulled its commercials from the delayed 2021 Olympic games in Tokyo, and executives skipped the opening ceremonies in response to concerns about safety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Nigeria picks another Paris 2024 slot in table tennis

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The number of Nigerian table tennis players heading to Paris 2024 Olympic Games increased to three after Fatimo Bello defeated Algeria’s Lynda Loghraibi 4-2 in the final of the second stage of the African Olympic Qualification Tournament at bK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda.

Bello failed to qualify through the first stage of qualifiers after losing 4-1 to Cameroon’s Sarah Hanffou but she returned stronger to win the sole slot in the second stage of qualifiers of the women’s singles.

Bello will join her compatriots – Olajide Omotayo and Offiong Edem to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

Also, Algeria’s Mehdi Bouloussa who missed out from the first stage of the qualifiers atone for his defeat to pick the last slot in the men’s singles of the qualification tournament.

The qualified players from Kigali qualifiers include Nigeria’s trio of Bello, Omotayo and Edem while Cameroon’s Sarah Haffou picked her tickets to third Olympics appearance while Fabio Rakotoarimanana became the first Madagascan table tennis player to qualify for the Olympic Games after picking the second slot in the first stage of the qualifiers. Mehdi Bouloussa of Algeria secured the final slot in the men’s singles.

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Bouloussa, who narrowly lost 3-4 to Wassim Essid of Tunisia in the quarterfinal round of the first stage, returned to winning ways to pick the final ticket in the men’s singles of the qualification tournament.

To win the second stage of the qualifiers, Bouloussa defeated Saheed Idowu of Congo Brazzaville. (16-14, 11-4, 11-8, 11-4) to pick his maiden ticket to the Olympic Games.

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Nigeria all set for Olympic Day celebrations

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"Engaging in exercises promotes health fitness" Popoola highlights. Pictured is Nigeria's Tobi Amusan in the women's hurdles in Tokyo. GETTY IMAGES

Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) Secretary General Babatunde Popoola says the committee, in collaboration with the Nigeria Sport For All Commission, is set for the country’s 2024 edition of Olympic Day celebration on 29 June.

Olympic Day is an annual international event that takes place in the month of June that is aimed at people of all ages and abilities to experience the magic of the Olympic Games in their own communities. Popoola says the event highlights the benefits of physical activity and for people to learn about Olympic values and practise them in their everyday life.

“Engaging in exercises promotes health fitness for individuals; jogging and walking burns calories, tones muscles, shapes your body and helps de-stress the mind.” NOC’s Secretary General stated. 

“Olympic Day has always been celebrated by NOC with fanfare nationwide and this year’s programme will not be an exception as many states are already preparing to organise the programme. 

“The states that have so far registered to participate are Anambra, Gombe, Taraba, Bayelsa, Imo, and Ondo, while others are still being expected to indicate their interest in the programme,” he continued.

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