Fact Check: Video Does NOT Prove French Air Force Made Russian Flag With Colored Smoke During Olympic Air Show

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Prove French Air Force Made Russian Flag With Colored Smoke During Olympic Air Show French Colors

Did French Air Force aerobatic jets accidentally emit smoke that displayed the Russian flag to mark the May 8, 2024, arrival of the Olympic flame in the French city of Marseille? No, that's not true: The eight Alpha Jets left smoke trails in the colors and order of France's tricolor -- blue, white and red. Russia's tricolor is white, blue and red. Video shot from a distance appears to show the blue- and red-colored smoke trails adjacent to each other because of perspective. Footage shot from below the planes shows the colors of the French flag.

The video appeared on May 9, 2024, in a post published by @MyLordBebo on X, formerly Twitter. The post said:

🇫🇷🇷🇺 LMAO: French jets mixed up the flags in the sky over Marseille! The Russian tricolor appeared over France!

This is what the post looked like on X at the time of writing:

Twitter screenshot(Source: X screenshot taken on Fri May 10 13:50:10 2024 UTC)

May 8, 2024, marked the arrival of the Olympic flame in Marseille from Athens, Greece, for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Eight jets from France's elite aerobatics squadron, Patrouille de France (The French Patrol) greeted the ship that brought the flame, Belem, as, accompanied by hundreds of smaller vessels, it sailed between Ratonneau Island and the mainland and into the Old Port of Marseille.

This 18 seconds of footage of the jets posted by @MyLordBebo appear to be authentic and unedited, but the footage has been misrepresented. There is white smoke between the colored smoke trails, although that may not be clearly seen from the angle at which the footage was shot.

The landmarks visible in this footage -- a large number of sailboats, rock outcrops and the building (the pilot station) in the lower right corner (pictured above) -- indicate this video was filmed from the Port du Frioul on Ratonneau Island, about three miles across the water from the Old Port of Marseille where the Olympic flame festivities took place.

The screenshot detail below from the 0:06 point in the video shows the moment the jets turn the smoke on. They can turn the smoke on and off as the maneuvers dictate. In this screenshot, the view of the central white smoke trail is partially blocked by blue smoke, and another visible white trail is made by a jet flying higher in the formation.


(Source: X screenshot taken on Fri May 10 19:50:01 2024 UTC)

A video posted on YouTube on May 9, 2024, by the local news site La Provence shows the timeline of events. At 43 seconds, the colors of the French flag are seen overhead as the eight jets of Patrouille de France fly over the Old Port of Marseille. Translated by Lead Stories, the caption reads:

7:20 p.m.: The French Patrol flies over Belem's entrance into an Old Port full to bursting.

19h20: La patrouille de France survole l'entrée du Belem dans un Vieux-Port plein à craquer.


(Source: YouTube screenshot taken on Fri May 10 19:02:25 2024 UTC)

Footage streamed live on May 8, 2024, by the Olympics YouTube channel shows the airshow.

After forming Olympic rings in the sky, and making an initial pass over the Old Port with blue, white and red smoke trails, the jets circled away, giving a moment for the smoke trails to disperse. They regrouped into a new formation and approached the Old Port once again to make a cinematic finale maneuver-- the formation burst apart in different directions, leaving a giant fan of smoke trails to form a backdrop behind the Belem's masts.

It appears the footage from @MyLordBebo was shot at the start of this second pass, as some dispersed pink smoke seems visible against the clouds. At the 22:26 mark, a front-on view of the jets' approach (pictured below) shows how the white smoke was above the colored smoke trails. From this angle, Ratonneau Island (inset below) would be off to the viewer's left, and from that perspective, the colors of the red and blue smoke could appear to be touching.


(Source: Lead Stories composite image with YouTube screenshots taken on Fri May 10 21:12:32 2024 UTC)

Other Lead Stories fact checks of claims related to the Olympics can be read here.

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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