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The Olympic flame arrives in France from Greece ahead of the Summer Olympics


France welcomed the Olympic flame in a ceremony on Wednesday afternoon in the port of its southern city of Marseille. The event featured fighter jets and fireworks and 200,000 spectators in the streets of France's second-largest city. Here's NPR Eleanor Beardsley.



ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The Belem, a three-mast old sailing ship, entered the Port of France's oldest city to the blast of fog horns and applause. It carried the Olympic flame from Greece to France in a 12-day Mediterranean crossing. French TV followed the ship's arrival all day with stunning images of white sails skimming the azure seas. The flame made the crossing in a special lantern on board.


BEARDSLEY: Its arrival was saluted in a show by eight fighter jet spewing red, white and blue smoke as they swooped over the 2,000-year-old city founded by the Phoenicians.


BEARDSLEY: A full orchestra played music written especially for the games. Marseillean natives basked with pride in the attention. Their city, more often in the news for drug gang shootings, was the star of France, for once, outshining its competitive sister, Paris, to the north. The choice of French rapper Jule, a native of Marseille, may not have been to everyone's taste, but it thrilled the thousands of young people who turned out. Less than a year ago, some of them had rioted against police across this same port.

European intelligence officials have warned of possible terror attacks at the Games this summer, but security expert Guillaume Farde told BFM TV the police had helped dispel those fears at this event.

GUILLAUME FARDE: (Through interpreter) It's a perfect example of what a huge security operation dealing with hundreds of thousands of people should be. Dense and robust, but not too controlling once you're inside the security perimeter.

BEARDSLEY: Now, 11,000 relayers will carry the flame some 7,500 miles through France to Paris, where it will preside over the games, which open July 26. One of the beaming faces in the port crowd was President Emanuel Macron, who said the flame had united the country.


BEARDSLEY: "When we pull together with our best athletes and artists, our security, art, gastronomy, landscapes, and cities," he said, "we can create the most beautiful things in the world.".

Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Eleanor Beardsley began reporting from France for NPR in 2004 as a freelance journalist, following all aspects of French society, politics, economics, culture and gastronomy. Since then, she has steadily worked her way to becoming an integral part of the NPR Europe reporting team.