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Newz Forum: OLYMPICS: Paris welcomes the Olympic torch

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posted on Jun, 25 2004 @ 02:56 PM
PARIS (AP) - The Olympic flame made a whirlwind tour through the City of Light on Friday, getting serenaded by accordionists, feted by dancers from the Moulin Rouge and saluted by horsemen in military regalia.

The flame's eight-hour trip through Paris also produced a call for armed conflict to cease during the August games "in the name of future generations."

During its journey, the Olympic flame passed through classy Paris, from the Louvre Museum to the Opera, and the fun, quirky Paris of street jugglers and daredevil skaters.

Everywhere, the city was at its best - full of Gallic charm and capable of pulling off complicated feats with seeming effortlessness. The city wants to host the 2012 Olympic Games, and the torch relay was a tantalizing foretaste.

The torch is on the final European leg of a 35-day journey around the world before the Olympics start Aug. 13 in Athens, Greece. It came to Paris from Switzerland and heads Saturday to London.

The flame made its first French appearance in the arms of a judo champion who swooped down from the sky on a rope.

David Douillet, a two-time Olympic gold winner, dropped to earth from the roof of the futuristic Stade de France stadium, where Paris hopes to host its own Olympic Games.

From the sports center in a northern suburb, the flame headed into the city to be welcomed by Moulin Rouge dancers, who wore red feathers and white ruffled petticoats that showed with each high-legged kick.

The torch made a stop in each of the city's 20 arrondissements, or neighborhoods, and it even took a boat tour down the Seine River as a tightrope walker crossed overhead. At the Louvre, horsemen in military regalia greeted the torch in a cobblestone courtyard.

In front of Paris' most famous church, there were sword-fighters, jugglers and fire-eaters - an homage to Victor Hugo's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame." The flame also made a stop at Pere Lachaise cemetery, the final resting place of writers Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust and singers Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison.

The organizers planned their finale at the Eiffel Tower, with torch-bearing track athlete Stephane Diagana sailing down on a rope from the first floor.

A high-point of the journey was a stop at the U.N.'s cultural branch, UNESCO, where a 10-year-old Parisian issued a call for peace before the flame was passed by a 15-year-old Israeli, Lotus Amar, to a Palestinian torchbearer, Khader Mostafa Zayd, also 15.

"We ask that, during the Athens Olympic Games, all conflict, all acts connected to, inspired by or resembling conflict, cease, whatever their motivation, cause or means of perpetration," the young boy said before a UNESCO crowd. The boy was identified only as Charles.

French sprinter Marie-Jose Perec - a three-time gold medalist nicknamed "La Gazelle" - sailed through the streets to carry the torch to City Hall, with police on roller skates trailing. The crowd went wild.

"It was really marvelous, splendid," she said. "I felt like I was being carried along, or flying."

She passed the torch to rugby legend Fabien Galthie, who was brimming with hope for Paris' Olympics bid. The City of Light, site of the 1900 and 1924 Olympics, is among the favorites to host the 2012 event.

"One day, we want the flame to make its final stop in Paris," he said.

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