for the passage of the Olympic flame, the Meuse and Verdun no longer want to be confined to the past

The year 2024 will mark 80 years since the landing in Normandy and 110 years since the start of the First World War; it is also the 40th anniversary of the “Verdun gesture”, the President of the Republic François Mitterand (1981-1995) and the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (1982-1998), hand in hand, in front of the Douaumont ossuary, in the Meuse. This department, which hopes to revive the memory during the passage of the Olympic flame on June 29, fought for the Verdun battlefield to be recognized as one of the four “iconic sites” of Paris 2024 in there Grand-Est region – like Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises (Haute-Marne) or the Little Venice of Colmar (Haut-Rhin).

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Two days after the lighting of the flame in Olympia (Greece) and the start of its journey which should take it to Paris on July 26, the date of the opening ceremony, the Meuse presented on Thursday April 18 the activities planned during of the passing of the baton. The objective: to make itself attractive and try to stand out from the 64 other stages, in particular by highlighting its heritage. Thus, two of the seven territories crossed are in the town of Verdun: the city center – where the ceremony of lighting the cauldron by the last torchbearer will be held in the evening – and the battlefields.

Creativity and sobriety

This duality corresponds, according to Nicolas Barret, director of the Verdun Memorial, to the “double memory” which was built in Verdun at the end of the First World War. While patriotic memory was celebrated in the city, notably with the construction of the victory monument, the veterans wanted to keep the 1916 battlefield intact.

As the flame passes near the trenches where more than 300,000 soldiers perished, sobriety will be required – and youth will be in the spotlight. The short route will start from the Douaumont ossuary, a place of memory and contemplation where French and German students will be brought together, to arrive at the Verdun Memorial, a place of transmission.

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The desire here was to have strong artistic creation and we saw things in a big way. A little too much perhaps: the initial scenography project, orchestrated by director and choreographer Benjamin Millepied, fell through, due to lack of budget and due to security constraints involving a limited number of spectators. The street artist duo Lek & Sowat were therefore tasked with creating a more lasting work, modern stained glass windows on the memorial, playing on the symbolism of the light of the flame and the phrase of Maurice Genevoix: “May the light finally guide them towards peace. » The great-grandson of the humanist writer and soldier, pantheonized in 2020, will carry the flame to the memorial.

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