Paris 2024 Organizers Insist Seine Can Host Olympic Swimming After Test Events Canceled – Forbes

PARIS, FRANCE – AUGUST 17: A general view as athletes swim in the Seine river in front of the Eiffel … [+] Tower during the Women World Triathlon on August 17, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images)
One of the most anticipated aspects of the Paris 2024 Games is the fact that open-water swimming events are set to be held in the Seine river.
However, given that the city has been trying to make the Seine swimmable for more than 30 years—former Parisian Mayor Jacques Chirac vowed as much in 1990—holding Olympic events in the iconic waterway is proving to be one of the greatest challenges facing organizers.
Last week, World Triathlon events were held to serve as a test ahead of the Games next summer. Though the women’s and men’s triathlons on Thursday and Friday were held as planned, on Saturday, “high levels of E.coli bacteria were detected in the river water,” as reported by Agence France-Presse. A paratriathlon event was canceled as a result, as was a mixed relay set to be held on Sunday.
And at the beginning of August, the Open Water Swimming World Cup event was also canceled due to water quality being below acceptable standards, per the French Swimming Federation.
France has already invested 1.4 billion euros (about $1.5 billion) in its Seine clean-up project. Not only is its success crucial to the Olympics swimming events going off—organizers said there is “no Plan B”—but it will open the river, which has been a lifeline of the city since the Middle Ages, to the city’s inhabitants for bathing and recreation.
“There is no solution to move the event; the triathlon and open water swimming will be held in the Seine next year,” said lead organizer Tony Estanguet, via Deutsche Welle.
The project hinges on containing rainwater in an enormous undeground reservoir so that it can be treated. When Paris experiences heavy rains, its sewer system overflows, sending excess wastewater into the river. France’s massive investment has already made some progress in preventing wastewater from flowing into the river.
Los Angeles water and sanitation officials have also been to Paris to observe the work surrounding the clean-up of the Seine as the city prepares to host the 2028 Games.
When Paris hosted its first Olympics in 1900, a 200-meter freestyle and a 200-meter obstacle race were held in the Seine, one of the last times Olympic swimming events have been held in open water. Eight years later, at the London Games, swimming events were moved to pools.