French 19th-century three-masted barque Belem. GETTY IMAGES

The Olympic flame set sail from the Greek port of Piraeus today to France where the Olympic Torch Relay will continue its epic journey. Crossing the Mediterranean on board the Belem, the flame is scheduled to reach Marseille on 8 May. 

"The feelings are so exceptional. It's such an emotion for me", Tony Estanguet, Paris Olympics chief organiser, told reporters before the ship departed from Piraeus.

Estanguet was formally handed over the Olympic flame of the 2024 Games by Hellenic Olympic Committee chairman Spyros Capralos Friday, in a ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium. Saturday morning, he brought the Olympic Flame, aboard the historical three-masted barque, The Belem. 

Tony Estanguet poses with sailors of the Belem in Athens. GETTY IMAGES
Tony Estanguet poses with sailors of the Belem in Athens. GETTY IMAGES

The Belem was accompanied off the port of Piraeus by the trireme Olympias of the Greek Navy and 25 sailing boats. On Sunday, the ship will pass through the Corinth Canal, an engineering feat thousands of years in the making, which was finally completed in 1893 with the help of France. As it approaches Marseille, it will be accompanied by over 1,000 vessels to the French harbour, local officials said. 

French swimmer Florent Manaudou will be the first torchbearer in Marseille and the relay is set to continue north; showcasing the nation’s landscapes and natural heritage before embarking on the “Oceans Relay” crossing the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans to reach six of the country’s overseas territories: Guadeloupe, Guyana, Martinique, French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Reunion Island.

The Olympic Flame will make its way back to mainland France from Fort-de-France, Martinique to the Alpes-Maritimes where it resumes its tour before the opening ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games on 26 July.