Darleux, Onesta, Narcisse lead handball representation in Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay

23 May. 2024

Darleux, Onesta, Narcisse lead handball representation in Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay

With just over 60 days left before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games gets underway in the French capital, the Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay has commenced.

The Olympic Torch Relay takes place before every Olympic Games and is one of the great traditions of any Olympic Games, symbolising peace, unity and friendship between people.

The relay started its journey on 16 April when the Torch, designed by Mathieu Lehanneur who was inspired by three symbols of the upcoming Games: equality, water and peacefulness, was lit by the Olympic flame on the site of Ancient Olympia in Greece as a tribute to the Ancient Olympic Games.

An 11-day tour around Greece then followed before the Olympic flame was then transferred via ship for a journey across the Mediterranean from Athens to Marseille, for Stage 1 of the Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay which started on 9 May. 

Handball was involved as soon as the Torch arrived on French soil with an organised introduction to the sport on a court situated on the forecourt of Stade du Vélodrome in the southern French city.

The Torch is now currently travelling around the regions of France, from the mainland to its overseas departments and territories, offering everyone the opportunity to see the torch and showcase the county.

Torchbearers selected for important role

Individuals who carry the Torch are known as ‘torchbearers’ with around 10,000 people involved in France after being selected in a process which started in June 2023.

They were selected on the basis of their commitment, dedication and actions to bring life to at least one of the three energies of Paris 2024 which include the energy of sport and the Games, the energy of communities and the energy of the collective.

Handball represented throughout Tour

In amongst the 100s of torchbearers will be a number of individuals from within the handball family with some highlights including global stars and inspiring figures in their local communities.

On Friday 17 May, Stage 9 took place in Haute-Garonne (Toulouse) in south west France with legendary France coach Claude Onesta who coached the French men’s national team to gold at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympic Games, involved along with Nodjialem Myaro, a double Olympian with the French women’s team (2000, 2004) and current President of the La Ligue Féminine de Handball (LFH).

The following day, 18 May, saw the Torch relay in Gers (Auch) for Stage 10, with Beijing 2008 gold medallist and part of Onesta’s French team, Christophe Kempé, appearing in the French town of Fleurance.

Another French legend will be part of the relay, with Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games gold medallist and multiple IHF Women’s World Championship and EHF Women’s European Championship medallist Cléopatre Darleux taking part in Stage 27 in June. The stage will be special for Darleux, taking place in the region of Finistère, home to the city of Brest, where the shotstopper currently plays for Brest Bretagne.

Multiple Olympic Games, IHF World Championship and EHF European Championship gold medal winner Daniel Narcisse will have the honour of running with the Olympic Torch on the island of his birthplace, Réunion, a French overseas department situated in the Indian Ocean. The 2012 IHF Male World Handball Player of the Year will be carrying the torch for Stage 30.

Handball will be represented on Stage 40 by Bernard Perrin who will carry the Olympic Torch in the eastern French region of Doubs. The 68-year-old has enjoyed a varied sporting career as a rugby and handball player, coach and manager, as well as being chairman of the regional handball technical committee and Jura handball committee.

The European Collectivity of Alsace will welcome the Torch for Stage 41 where 23-year-old Nathan Cochin  will represent the French handball community. Having played handball at a national level since the age of 18, he attributes part of his success to his drive to excel himself, having been top scorer in the French under-18 Championship at the age of just 17 years old. For the past two years, Cochin has been coaching the men's and women's teams at the university he attends. Through sport, he has learned the value of inclusion, which he puts into practice by supporting initiatives such as introductory handball sessions for people with multiple sclerosis, in collaboration with his club and the Grenoble MS association.

17-year-old Paul Raft will carry the Olympic Torch in Moselle for Stage 42. Profoundly deaf, Raft lost his hearing as a result of a medical error a few days after he was born but despite this disability, he has always been able to move forward and demonstrate that his difference can be a strength, joining the French Deaf Handball team in May 2023.

Stage 43 will see 33-year-old Abdelkader Rahim carry the torch in the north-eastern city – and his birthplace – of Saint-Dizier, situated in the French department of Haute-Marne. After picking up a handball for the first time at just six years old, he went on to appear in numerous senior, junior and youth IHF Men’s World Championships – most recently appearing in all seven games at Poland/Sweden 2023 – CAHB Men’s Africa Championships and playing in various teams in France including USAM Nîmes Gard and Dunkerque HGL amongst others.

Epilogue leading into the Opening Ceremony

The 68th and final stage of the relay, ‘Epilogue’, will take place across two days, starting on Thursday 25 July, before ending with the Olympic cauldron in the Olympic Stadium being lit on Friday 26 July, when the Games officially open – and when the men’s and women’s handball competitions start too.

The two-day tour will see the Olympic torch wind its way through the lively streets of Saint-Denis, passing the Basilica of Saint-Denis (the necropolis of many kings of France) and then the Pleyel district, built around the central railway station serving the whole of eastern Paris. It will then make its way to the heart of the Olympic Village just hours ahead of ending its journey at the Opening Ceremony of the Games.

‘Team Relay’ debuts

A new addition to the Olympic Torch Relay for 2024 are ‘Team Relays’. These consist of 24 people each, representing the 34 Olympic and Paralympic Federations whose sports are on the programme of the Olympic Summer Games – including the French Handball Federation (FFHB). Teams will include champions, everyday athletes, volunteers, referees, coaches and others, who are members of each individual federation, with the FFHB able to choose from more than 530,000 members.

On 2 July (Stage 46) the Handball Team Relay will take place in Lille, the city which will host the final stages of the Paris 2024 men’s and women’s handball competitions at the Pierre Mauroy Stadium.

The day will shine the spotlight on amateur handball in the region with Benjamin Brun, a member of the French Wheelchair Handball team, captaining the relay team.

Key numbers about the Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay

  •     16 April: Olympic flame lit in Olympia, Greece
  •     43: Greek municipalities, the torch travelled through (5,000km in 11 days)
  •     8: May, arrival of the flame in France, in Marseille
  •     1,029: total amount of boats which accompanied the ship ‘Belem’ into Marseille
  •     68: days Olympic Torch Relay on French territory
  •     65: territories involved in the Olympic Torch Relay
  •     6: overseas territories (Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Martinique, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Réunion)
  •     400+: cities will be visited
  •     64: stage cities
  •     10,000: torchbearers
  •     200: metres, the average distance covered by an Olympic Torchbearer
  •     70: cm, size of Torch
  •     1.5: kg, weight of Torch
  •     2,000: number of Torches produced

For more information on the Paris 2024 Torch Relay, visit HERE.

Credit photo: Paris 2024