MARSEILLE, France (NEWSnet/AP) — Anticipation is building in the southern French city of Marseille, where a majestic three-mast ship carrying the Olympic torch has arrived from Greece in preparation for a welcoming ceremony Wednesday.

The torch was lit last month as part of ceremonies in Greece. It departed Athens aboard a ship named Belem, which was first used in 1896, and spent twelve days at sea.

Paris Games organizers have promised “fantastic” celebrations in the city.

The welcoming ceremony at dusk on Wednesday will include a demonstration by the jets of the Patrouille de France, the acrobatic team of the French air force. More than a thousand boats will accompany the Belem’s parade around the Bay of Marseille.

The ship will dock on a pontoon that looks like an athletics track in the Old Port.

“It’s a monumental day and we have been working hard for visitors and residents of Marseille to enjoy this historical moment,” said Yannick Ohanessian, the city’s deputy mayor.

Marseille is France’s second largest city with nearly a million inhabitants. About 8,000 police officers have been assigned around in the harbour where tens of thousands of spectators are expected to gather for the ceremony. There will also be thousands of firefighters and bomb disposal squads have been positioned around the city along with maritime police and anti-drone teams patrolling the city’s waters and its airspace.

The torch relay will start its land stage Thursday, traveling through iconic places across the country, from the world-famous Mont Saint-Michel to D-Day landing beaches in Normandy and the Versailles Palace. Olympic swimmer Florent Manaudou has been chosen to be the first carrier of the flame in France.

France’s Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera stressed the symbolic and practical importance of the event after years of preparations for the Paris Games.

“We really want to make sure that the beginning of the torch relay here will drive enthusiasm and a sense of pride for French people. That will give us a a big moment of celebration and joy,” Oudea-Castera said in an interview with The Associated Press.

“Sport can bring up these type of emotions and Olympism is much more than sport,” she added. “It conveys a message to the world and the torch relay is a symbol of peace.”

The finale is the Olympic cauldron lighting after the Games’ opening ceremony set for July 26. The exact location of the cauldron is kept top-secret until the day itself.

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