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Québec commemorates Marco Polo's historic role

Québec commemorates Marco Polo's historic role
The Québec Port Authority held an event in collaboration with the Naval Museum of Québec to commemorate Tuesday's return of Marco Polo, which first visited Québec 50 years ago as Alexandr Pushkin.

In April 1966, it was the first Soviet Union ship to sail the St. Lawrence River as it inaugurated Leningrad-Montréal trans-Atlantic service. During a brief ceremony at city hall, Capt. Aram Organov presented Mayor Gilles Lamontagne with a gift from the mayor of Leningrad. Alexandr Pushkin was carrying 700 passengers and 320 crew on board.

'It’s important for the port to celebrate commemorative events that highlight the city of Québec’s marine heritage,' said Mario Girard, president and ceo of the Québec Port Authority. He thanked the Naval Museum of Québec, calling it a 'gold mine for Canadian marine history,' as well as its director, André Kirouac, for helping with Tuesday's event.

Kirouac said Marco Polo's arrival makes the city reminisce about the 1960s, when Canada was preparing to celebrate its 100th anniversary and 'our society was showing its openness to the world.' Relationships were being forged between the world’s port cities, he added, as evidenced by the gift sent from Leningrad's mayor with Alexander Pushkin's first call. 

Now operated by Cruise & Maritime Voyages, the ship is back in the St. Lawrence this year for a commemorative trip. Marco Polo is carrying 678 passengers, who are mostly English or Dutch, and 343 crew members. The ship overnighted in Québec City on Tuesday and was scheduled to depart at 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Events commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first arrival have been taking place at ports along the St. Lawrence.