Torch Relay Stage 15: History, sport and culture in the Charente. PARIS 2024

The Olympic Torch continued its journey to Paris in a region that has inspired artists. The Charente region, with its lush, unspoilt countryside, is renowned for its historical sites and cultural attractions, both of which were highlighted by the route of the Olympic Torch Relay during this 15th stage.

The public enjoyed the many activities proposed along the route and discovered shooting during the collective relay dedicated to this discipline. Around a hundred torchbearers took part in the day's relay and it was Kassandra Burns, a local specialist in sports photography, who lit the cauldron. 

A trip to the Charente is guaranteed to be a cultural, sporting and historical delight. The département boasts many archaeological sites and eight villages listed as cités de caractères (characterful villages). This Friday, the Olympic Torch relay set out to promote this heritage along a varied route, starting in Barbezieux-Saint-Hilaire, passing in front of the castle and taking in the relaxing setting of Le Chambon, a place to enjoy leisure and sport. 

The torch visited several historical sites: Cognac, the birthplace of François I, Saint-Cybardeaux at the Bouchauds Gallo-Roman theatre in front of Saint-Barthélemy church in Confolens, and the medieval streets of Ruffec. Angoulême, the last stop of the day, was an opportunity to admire the heritage of this former papal city, which has now been awarded the title of 'City of Art and History'. 

This visit to Angoulême, from the Place de Bourgines to the forecourt of the Chais Magelis complex, was also an opportunity to highlight its cultural attractions. The city buzzes with the rhythm of many events during the year, such as the French Film Festival, the ramparts circuit and the International Comic Festival. There were many nods to the 'ninth art', with the Olympic Torch being carried past the International Centre of Comics and Images. 

The Charente and Angoulême are also places of sport, and the spectators were able to enjoy this. Among the activities on offer were taster sessions in team sports and Charente slipper throwing - a very funny activity that has many fans - as well as concerts, in particular those organised by the departmental music school, featuring country, Cuban, Mexican, Tzigane and Congolese music. 

In Angoulême, a collective relay was organised by the French Shooting Federation, a popular sport in the region. The collective relay was led by Dominique Auprêtre, Chair of the Charente Sports Departmental Committee and a former athlete at the Seoul Games (1988). She was joined by shooters and volunteers who are all passionate about the sport, such as Jean-Paul Senand, who has been a shooter and referee for over 50 years. 

More than 100 torchbearers took turns during the day. Among them, many have shown great courage and unexpected strength to overcome incredible challenges. This was the case for Philippe Croizon, an accomplished athlete and entrepreneur who is heavily involved in para-swimming. 16 years after an accident, he swam between Folkestone and the Cap Gris-Nez cape. 

In 2012, together with Anaud Chasseri, Croizon swam between the five continents to join them like the Olympic rings, a fine example of going beyond oneself. Also present, Manon Mioulet, only 17 years old, covered 95 km during the Grand Raid on La Réunion despite her disability, Guillaume Lammertyn ran the Paris Marathon after a triple heart bypass and Christophe Bernard took part in more than 400 car races after open-heart surgery. 

As usual, a number of athletes were among the torchbearers, including former international footballer Brigitte Henriques, the first woman to become head of the French Olympic and Sports Committee (CNSOF), former judoka Marie-Claire Restoux-Gasset, a medallist at the 1996 Atlanta Games, and Ndeye Sokhna Lacoste, selected for the 4x400m relay at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. 

In the resolutely creative city of Angoulême, the photographer Kassandra Burns lit the cauldron on the square in front of the Comic Strip Museum, which will launch its new project, "Origin", on 2 September at the Women's Forum on the theme of social inclusion.