Bacteria Water

Seine River Conditions Improving, But Olympic Organizers Unveil Plan B for Open Water Swimming

Test results released Thursday showed improving conditions in the Seine River a few weeks before the Paris Olympics begin later this month, but organizers nevertheless announced their backup plan for open water swimming just in case.

With rains letting up last week, enterococci and E. coli bacteria were found to be below the allowable limits on six of the nine days between June 24 and July 2. The results of the previous test last month revealed unsafe levels of E. coli in four different areas for the third week in a row, including 10 times above acceptable limits on June 18.

After facing criticism for months from open water swimmers, Paris 2024 organizers finally announced their “Plan B.” If the Seine River is still unsafe for swimming next month, open water events will be held just outside of Paris at the Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium, which is already hosting rowing and canoe competitions this summer. Meanwhile, the backup plan for the triathlon events would be to just shorten the triathlon to a duathlon.

Open water swimming is set to take place in the Seine River from August 8-9 while the swimming portion of the triathlon competition is scheduled for July 30-31 and August 5 (mixed relay).

One of the major features of France’s $1.5 billion clean-up effort is a 50,000 cubic meter reservoir that finally operated for the first time on June 18 and 19. The water tank prevented 40,000 cubic meters of wastewater from entering the Seine. Paris 2024 organizers insist that the Seine will be safe for competition with drier weather in the forecast for July.

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo recently postponed plans to swim in the Seine on Sunday, instead rescheduling for July 14. Local Parisians spread news of a protest on the internet, encouraging others to defecate in the river.

French president Emmanuel Macron also committed to take a dip in the Seine. Swimming in the river has been banned for over a century since 1923, but it is slated to reopen to the public at certain sites beginning in 2025.

Last summer’s test events in the Seine were cancelled due to poor water quality, which officials later attributed to a faulty sewer valve upstream.

A 76-year-old American celebrated the Fourth of July on Thursday by swimming in the Seine River, later giving an interview to the Associated Press in which he called the water “fantastic.”

“I may regret having swum,” Joel Stratte McClure said. “But if I come back alive, it will prove that the French have done a good job cleaning up the river. I think the president organized new elections to avoid swimming in the Seine.”