Defend Truth

Paris 2024

For its 2024 Olympics, Paris wants the Seine river swimmable

For its 2024 Olympics, Paris wants the Seine river swimmable
View of the Seine river and the Eiffel tower from the Alexandre III bridge in Paris, France, 14 March 2023. The municipality of the French capital is working on the swimming in the river on the occasion of the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The Paris 2024 Olympic Games will be held from 26 July until 11 August 2024 in the French capital and will see events of the Opening ceremony to be performed on the Seine River and the Jardins du Trocadero opposite of the landmark Eiffel tower. EPA-EFE/CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON

On a sunny spring day, Dan Angelescu was testing the water quality of Paris' Seine river by the bridge Alexander III - a scenic view for next year's swimming marathon and triathlon Olympic trials.

Angelescu has been working for the city since 2017 on its longtime project to make the Seine swimmable. The 2024 Games are a good opportunity to fast-track it in order to host some sporting events in the famous river – as was done at the first Paris Olympics of 1900.

“It’s an ambitious objective, and nobody knows how the Olympic Games will be, whether the water quality will be good enough or not,” Angelescu said, adding that it was “realistic”, and that the city was putting in the effort required.

That day, concentration levels for two bacteria, E.coli and Enterococcus, both indicators of fecal material in the water, were low enough to safely bathe in the river according to Angelescu. The challenge is to maintain those levels.

The main risk comes from storms. When rainwater pours into the Parisian sewage system it can overflow and the extra water is then discharged in the river, polluting it with toxic bacteria.

To avoid this happening next summer, the city is building a massive underground basin in the south of Paris, with a 50,000 cubic metres capacity – about the equivalent of 20 Olympic pools. The Austerlitz basin will collect rainfall to avoid the overflow, said Pierre Rabadan, deputy mayor in charge of the Games’ organization.

“If there were torrential rain for several days, we could have a water quality problem,” Rabadan said, but added he was confident the basin would prevent that from happening.

SYSTEM UPGRADE

Another part of the plan is to complete the switch of some homes upstream from an antiquated set-up discharging wastewater into the river to a brand new connection to the sewer system.

Stephane Vidalie, who lives in Neuilly-Plaisance in the east of Paris, was happy to no longer send wastewater into the Marne river, a tributary that joins the Seine just outside Paris.

“As a citizen, it’s important to know you don’t take part in polluting waterways,” said Vidalie. “Now it goes to treatment plants, as it should have for a long time.”

Paris hopes to reap the benefits beyond the Olympics. Colombe Brossel, another deputy mayor in charge of public space and waste reduction, said the main goal was for people along the Seine to be able to swim in it by 2025, as an Olympics “inheritance”.

Bastien Coignon, a member of a kayak club in Sevres, west of Paris, said he had been waiting for this.

“With the Games, we know the water will be cleaner and cleaner, and for us it’s much more pleasant, not to have all the waste ending up in the Seine,” he said.

(Reporting by Manuel Ausloos, additional reporting by Clotaire Achi and Noemie Olive; Writing by Juliette Jabkhiro; Editing by Alex Richardson)

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.