Torch Relay Stage 52: The castle of Loir-et-Cher. PARIS 2024

The Olympic Torch Relay illuminated the architectural treasures, castles, and châteaux of the Loir-et-Cher département. From Fréteval to Blois, it illuminated the historical heritage of the Loire banks, visiting Vendôme, the ZooParc in Beauval and the iconic Château de Chambord.

24 skateboarders navigated some of the narrow streets of Blois in a team relay organised by the Fédération Française de Roller et Skateboard. Para cyclist Raphaël Beaugillet, bronze medallist at the Tokyo Games, lit the cauldron at the celebration site at the end of the day. 

Millions of visitors flock to the Loir-et-Cher every year to discover its wonders. From Chambord, Blois and Villesavin to Cheverny and Chaumont-sur-Loire, the department is a jewel box of French heritage. Loir-et-Cher has nine protected designations of origin for wines and famous cheeses that put it on the gastronomic map. The department has been awarded the "Terre de Jeux 2024" label and is working hard to promote sport in everyday life. 

On another incredible day, the torch relay passed through seven municipalities. It started in Fréteval, where the runners lit up the church of Saint Nicolas, before heading to the Perche and Haut Vendômois Tourist Office. Then it was on to the ZooParc in Beauval, the fourth most beautiful zoo in the world. Pandas were among the members of Torch's warm welcome committee. 

In Vendôme, which has been awarded the "Villes et pays d'art et d'histoire" label, the torch made its way to the Porte Saint-Georges and then to Chaumont-sur-Loire and its famous château, a listed building where the International Garden Festival is held every year. The convoy then passed through Thésée, a wine-producing village with the Gallo-Roman ruins of Les Maselles. It continued to Romorantin-Lanthenay, the capital of Sologne. 

The Olympic Torch approaches its big day at the Opening Ceremony. PRÉFET DE LOIR-ET-CHER
The Olympic Torch approaches its big day at the Opening Ceremony. PRÉFET DE LOIR-ET-CHER

The Chambord Estate was one of the highlights of the day. Conceived by Francis I, built in 1519 and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this place hides a piece of history around every corner. The Torch took the famous double spiral staircase, designed by Leonardo da Vinci, up to the terraces of the castle and then back down again to traverse its majestic gardens. This was the last stop on the way to Blois, the end of the stage. 

In the capital of Blésois, the Torch was greeted by a cheering crowd. From the municipal stadium of Les Allées, the torch passed by the Royal Castle, the favourite residence of the French kings during the Renaissance. The relay then paused in front of the monumental Denis Papin Staircase before entering the Jardins de l'Évêché, followed by the City Hall and the iconic Saint Louis Cathedral. The festivities ended at the Place de la République. 

Towards the end of the afternoon, the Place de la Résistance hosted an exciting skateboard team relay organised by the FFSR and captained by Benjamin Coulier. Diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at a very young age, Ben overcame his disability to become a tennis champion. He has since taken on new challenges such as skateboarding, which he now practises all the time. 

He was joined by 23 skaters, including Sissi Drégoire-Perron, who won bronze at the French O16 Street Skateboarding Championships, Eric Dimeck, who set up a skateboarding section at his local cultural and leisure centre, and Nina Francomme, a skier who heralds the rise of a new generation. 

The Olympic Torch on horseback in the Loir-et-Cher region. PARIS 2024
The Olympic Torch on horseback in the Loir-et-Cher region. PARIS 2024

More than 100 torchbearers with inspiring backgrounds also carried the Torch. They included Jérôme Lefer, who organises the popular Vendôme à vélo event and was previously president of a triathlon club, and Nathalie Chereau, who became the president of her judo club in 2015 and has since trained 80 black belts. Paralympian Sébastien Barc took up the torch in Chaumont-sur-Loire. 

A Knight of the Legion of Honour, he won several medals at the Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004 Paralympics. Sailor Maud Fontenoy, the first woman to row around the South Pacific from east to west and without assistance, handed over the Olympic Torch to Thésée. At her side was Marylou Oleskow, who pours her heart and soul into her athletics club, both as an athlete and as an official judge. 

Claude Issorat, a consummate wheelchair racer who won 14 Paralympic medals in Barcelona in 1992, Atlanta in 1996 and Sydney in 2000, joined the parade on the streets of Loir-et-Cher. Alexandra Lacrabère, a handball player with more than 250 games for France and three major gold medals - at the 2017 World Championships, the 2018 European Championships and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics- carried the Torch at the Château de Chambord. 

Blois, the venue for the festivities, welcomed the Torch with a host of stars, including a future Olympian, Mathilde Sénéchal, the European junior 3000m silver medallist who will be competing in the Paris 2024 Marathon. Leading French baker Jean-François Feuillette, founder of a renowned bakery chain, was among the runners. Raphaël Beaugillet, who won bronze in the men's B time trial at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics, lit the cauldron in his home city.