Watch: Olympic torch reaches France ahead of Paris 2024

The Belem arrives with the Olympic torch Wednesday in Marseille, France. Photo by Guillaume Horcajuelo/EPA-EFE

May 8 (UPI) -- A large crowd lined the banks of the Old Port on Wednesday to watch the three-mast Belem ship finish its journey from Athens to Marseille, delivering the Olympic torch to France ahead of the 2024 Summer Games in Paris.

The torch was initially lit April 16 at the ancient stadium in Olympia. A relay of torchbearers then carried the flame on a 3,100-mile journey trough Greece before it was handed off in Athens on April 27.

France's national anthem played as fighter jets flew overhead, illuminating the sky with smoke trails the color of the French flag Wednesday in Marseille. French swimmer Florent Manaudou, a four-time Olympic medalist, then removed the torch from a Louis Vuitton case aboard the Belem.

He slowly walked the torch off the ship before handing it off to another group of torchbearers. One of those torchbearers, Marseille rapper Jul, then lit a cauldron as the crowd cheered amid firework explosions.

The torch now will be carried throughout France, making a total of 400 stops, including at the Normandy beaches stormed in World War II and the picturesque Mont Saint-Michel.

It also will travel on the Maxi Banque Populaire XI, one of the world's fastest yachts, when it journeys across the Atlantic Ocean to visit the overseas territories of Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, French Polynesia, Reunion and New Caledonia.

About 10,000 torchbearers will participate in the 69-day journey, which includes travel through 65 regions in France and covers nearly 7,500 miles. Former NBA star Tony Parker, soccer legend Didier Drogba and several other athletes will participate in the Marseille leg.

The torch's flame will then be used to light the cauldron at the Paris 2024 Opening Ceremony on July 26 along the River Seine. That fire will burn until it is extinguished at the 2024 Summer Games closing ceremony Aug. 11 at the Stade de France in Paris.