MARSEILLE, France (NEWSnet/AP) — Tens of thousands of people welcomed the Olympic torch Wednesday in the southern French city of Marseille, marking another milestone in the lead-up to the Summer Games in Paris.

French Olympic swimmer Florent Manaudou became the first torch carrier in France after the Olympic flame arrived in Marseille’s Old Port on a majestic three-mast ship from Greece for the welcoming ceremony.

The ship sailed into Marseille's old port with the French national anthem “La Marseillaise” echoing from the embankment and a French Air force flyover with planes first drawing the five Olympic rings and then the red-blue-white colors of the nation's flag.

The ship docked on a pontoon resembling an athletics track and Manaudou carried the torch to mainland France. He handed it to French Paralympic sprinter Nantenin Keïta, who won a gold medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, to carry it to rapper Jul, a Marseille native, who lit a cauldron as tens of thousands cheered on the shore and thousands of others waved from balconies and windows.

“We can be proud,” said President Emmanuel Macron, who attended the ceremony to welcome the torch.

“The flame is on French soil,” Macron said. “The games are coming to France and are entering the lives of the French people."

The torch relay starts on Thursday in Marseille, before heading to Paris through iconic places across the country, from the world-famous Mont Saint-Michel to D-Day landing beaches in Normandy and the Versailles Palace.

The Olympic cauldron will be lit after the Games’ opening ceremony that will take place on the River Seine on July 26.

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