The die is now cast: 80% of the 10,000 “scouts”, who will take turns throughout France, between May 8 and July 26, to carry the Olympic flame, learned by email on Monday January 15 that they had been selected. In the Meuse, on June 29, at the rate of one torchbearer every two hundred meters, there should be “around one hundred and fifty”, according to the Games Organizing Committee (Cojop) – their exact number will depend on the final length of the course, the route of which has not yet been made official.

But – because there is a “but” – at the department level “we still do not know who these flame bearers will be”, notes Thomas Furdin, head of the Meuse youth and sports service, who recalls that the passage of the flame will however be “the most symbolic aspect for us, the only opportunity for many Meuse residents to participate in the Olympic Games”.

Paris 2024, which validated all the candidates after security checks, does not wish to provide this list of torchbearers, citing the protection of personal data. “We also do not know who will have designated them and according to what criteria,” adds Mr. Furdin.

“We hope that the torchbearers will be Meuseans”

The only official criterion was to highlight “an ordinary person who has done extraordinary things”, in a sporting context or not, to the exclusion of politics and religion. Others have been added, such as gender parity and diversity (age, disability, etc.). The geographical criterion was not imposed. “All we hope is that the torchbearers in the Meuse will be Meuse residents,” repeats, like a mantra, Philippe Colson, advisor to the president of the Meuse departmental council.

The stakes are high for local authorities, who have paid 180,000 euros to host this torch relay. What might seem obvious is not, however, because those who choose the bearers do not always have local roots: 30% of the torchbearers were recruited by Paris 2024 and its ecosystem (sports movement, Earth referents of Games 2024, schools labeled Generation 2024), 30% by the sponsors of the relay (Coca-Cola, BPCE group), 30% by other Cojop partners and 10% by the host communities.

For the moment, it is only at this last level that we know the identities of the torchbearers: four were designated by the stage city, Verdun, six by the department. They were presented on Saturday, January 20, during the greetings of Jérôme Dumont, president (DVD) of the department, accompanied by the mayors of the towns crossed by the relay. The Meuse, while ensuring general balance, has in fact decided to let them propose the torchbearer who will carry the flame in their city.

Local athletes, humanist values

Local athletes will be highlighted in Bar-de-Duc (the president of the Municipal Sports Office “for his multi-sport commitment for thirty years”), as in Gondrecourt (the director of the Jeand’Heurs stables), or at Lac de Madine (a young swimmer amputee at the age of 3).

More original for the method of designation, Commercy, the third city in the department, opted for a draw between all the presidents of sports clubs, who designated the president of the Ping-pong club merchant. In the north of the department, the mayor of the citadel village of Montmédy chose to highlight a volunteer firefighter, “not at all from a sporting background, for the humanist values ​​he embodies and the services rendered to the region”.

On the battlefields of Verdun, the director of the memorial chose the great-grandson of Maurice Genevoix, writer of the Great War, who “embodies the transmission of history with humanist values ​​of peace”. It is in the same symbolic logic that the city of Verdun chose the most emblematic of its four torchbearers: Major Abdelkader Kenane, tireless 85-year-old runner, holder of the Legion of Honor and Commander of the National Order of Merit , a harki who “brilliantly served France, his homeland.”

Among these ten torchbearers will also be high-level able-bodied and disabled athletes: the double French parabadminton champion Manon Roels, the French Adapted Sport table tennis champion Julien Longeau and the rower Fabrice Leclerc.

Rowing will be well represented in Verdun, since it is the French Rowing Federation which will be highlighted through a collective relay: twenty-three champions or everyday athletes will carry the flame on the Meuse which crosses the town, behind their captain, Benjamin Rondeau, Olympic medalist in Beijing in 2008 and historic member of the Cercle Nautique Verdunois.

Sports festival on D – 55 from the passage of the flame

For its part, Paris 2024 thinks it will be able to communicate the names of around ten torchbearers… at the end of March. Through its Paris 2024 Club, Cojop led a major campaign in 2023, on the principle of nomination by a close friend, one judge per region then being responsible for sorting and Paris 2024

At Coca-Cola, the stated objective is that those selected can “run as close as possible to their area of ​​residence”. The group gathered more than 15,000 applications and an internal and external jury (content creators, athletes) selected “the most deserving and unique stories,” explains Claire Revenu, general manager in charge of the company’s Olympic and Paralympic Games. . The first three torchbearers have been designated for the Meuse: two young amateur athletes and a music educational advisor.

On the BPCE side, the process was twofold: some of the relayers were designated by an internal jury (notably clients and collaborators proposed by local agencies, business centers, etc.), the others by a recruitment campaign to the public and by drawing lots. As far as the Meuse is concerned, recruitment is done at the level of the Grand-Est, the banks not committing to ensuring that all the carriers come from the department, even if they play the game of proximity, affirms Raphaël Dubs, communications director of La Banque populaire Alsace-Lorraine-Champagne.

“We discovered some fabulous stories, which fit well with the spirit of the Games,” says Marie-Christine Rouard, communications director for Caisse d’épargne Grand-Est Europe. In total, there should be less than ten relayers at the department level for the Banque Populaire as well as for the Caisse d’Epargne. “It’s not enormous, contrary to what everyone thinks,” puts Ms. Rouard into perspective.

Once designated, where will each of the torchbearers run on June 29? “With less than six months until the flame passes, we know nothing about anything,” fumes Philippe Colson. In the meantime, the Meuse intends to celebrate its bearers on the occasion of a major sporting festival, at the beginning of May, on D – 55 of the passage of the flame – 55, like the number of the department.