Greek actor Mary Mina holds the Olympic torch at the Panathinean stadium in Athens. GETTY IMAGES

 With Olympic spirit heating up worldwide, Greece handed over the Olympic flame of the 2024 Games to the Paris hosts at the Athens marble Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896.

It was quite the captivating scene in a bright spring morning this Friday, as Hellenic Olympic Committee chairman Spyros Capralos handed passed the torch to Paris Olympics chief organiser Tony Estanguet in the same site where the competition was revived nearly 130 years ago.

In his speech to Olympic enthusiasts everywhere, Estanguet said the goal for Paris was to organise "spectacular but also more responsible Games, which will contribute towards a more inclusive society." Organisers want to ensure "that the biggest event in the world plays an accelerating role in addressing the crucial questions of our time," according to Estanguet, himself a member of France's Athens 2004 Olympics team who won gold in the slalom canoe event.

A duo of French champions, Beijing 2022 ice dance gold medallist Gabriella Papadakis and former swimmer Beatrice Hess, one of the most successful Paralympians in history, carried the flame during the final relay leg into the Panathenaic Stadium. Nana Mouskouri, the 89-year-old Greek singer with a worldwide following, performed the anthems of France and Greece at the ceremony.

After spending the night at the French embassy in Athens, the flame will begin its journey to France on Saturday by boarding the 19th-century three-masted barque Belem. On Sunday, the ship is due to navigate from the Corinth Canal -- a feat of 19th century engineering constructed with the contribution of French banks and engineers. The Belem is set to reach Marseille -- a city founded by ancient Greek colonists around 600 BCE -- on May 8. Over 1,000 vessels will accompany its approach to the harbour, local officials advanced.

French swimmer Florent Manaudou will be the first torch bearer in Marseille. His sister Laure was the second torch bearer in ancient Olympia, where the flame was lit on April 16. Ten thousand torchbearers will then carry the flame across 64 French territories. A French historical monument launched just weeks after the Athens 1896 Games were held, the Belem carried out trade journeys to Brazil, Guyana and the Caribbean for nearly two decades.

The torch will travel through more than 450 towns and cities, dozens of tourist attractions and up to 30 UNESCO World-heritage sights during its 12,000-kilometre (7,500-mile) journey through mainland France and overseas French territories in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Pacific. And, obviously, it will be at the heart of the Paris Olympics opening ceremony on July 26 in the River Seine.

A French police union warned on Tuesday of potential disruptions to the Olympics torch relay before the start of the Paris Games unless officers receive bonuses. Such warning highlights the dilemma for French authorities as they navigate negotiations regarding Olympics bonuses for public sector employees, who are being requested to work during the traditional summer holiday season.

Hours before the handover ceremony, the flame passed from Marathon, the town where the classic 42-kilometre endurance race, a key Olympic event, sets off annually. The torch harks back to the ancient Olympics when a sacred flame burned throughout the Games. The tradition was revived in 1936 for the Berlin Games.

During the 11-day relay on Greek soil, some 600 torchbearers carried the flame over a distance of over 5,000 kilometres (3,100 miles) through over 50 towns and cities.