Bacteria Water

Paris Olympics shares backup plans if the Seine is too dirty to swim in

Following concerns about contamination of the Seine River and whether it will be safe for open water marathon swimmers and triathletes this summer, Paris Olympics organizers shared they do, in fact, have a backup venue planned.

As USA TODAY Sports and For The Win recently reported, Team USA swimmers and their open water coach shared their concerns about the safety of the Paris river water, especially after a June report released by the mayor’s office noted the river contains elevated levels of fecal bacteria, including E. coli, making it dangerous to swim in.

Swimmers Ivan Puskovitch and Katie Grimes — who are both qualified to swim the 10k open water race at the Games — and coach Ron Aitken previously said they had not heard about an alternate venue option if the Seine is unsafe, just alternate competition dates.

However, in an email to USA TODAY Sports and For The Win on Thursday, organizers said there are backup plans for the marathon swimming events and the triathlon — both of which are scheduled to take place in the Seine.

Should swimming in the Seine — which has been largely banned since 1923 — be off the table, the open water 10k races will be moved to the Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium, which is just outside Paris and is already set to host canoe-kayak and rowing events. For the triathlon, the contingency plan “as a final resort” is to hold the event in a duathlon format.

A Paris Olympics spokesperson said, via email:

“We have full confidence in the work undertaken by the State, the City of Paris and all of the relevant authorities to make the Seine swimmable so that the events can take place as planned.

“As we have seen in recent days, summer conditions (strong sunshine, high temperatures, long periods without rain) bring about a significant improvement in water quality. We have observed this in the past week with results that would have enabled events to be held in the Seine on 7 out of 9 days.

“These results reassure us that the combination of summer weather and the work undertaken to make the Seine swimmable should allow Olympic and Paralympic Games events to be held in the Seine as expected.”

Should unseasonal weather, like heavy rain, occur and impact the Seine water quality, organizers said there are still alternate dates available for the open water races and triathlons.

Last summer, multiple open water test events in the Seine were canceled because of poor water quality, partly stemming from heavy rainfall.