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Paris 2024 Olympic Games: “the Seine will be swimmable”, the organization reassures even if no plan B is planned in the event of pollution

While the Olympic Games (July 26-August 11) are fast approaching, the NGO Surfrider Foundation warned on Monday of the “alarming” state of the waters of the Seine, where several Olympic swimming events are to be held.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Games: “the Seine will be swimmable”, the organization reassures even if no plan B is planned in the event of pollution

While the Olympic Games (July 26-August 11) are fast approaching, the NGO Surfrider Foundation warned on Monday of the “alarming” state of the waters of the Seine, where several Olympic swimming events are to be held. This organization carried out a six-month sampling campaign between the end of September 2023 and March 2024 under the Alexandre-III and Alma bridges, locations for future triathlon and open water swimming events. However, bad news for the organizers, 13 samples turned out to be “above or very much above” the thresholds recommended for swimming.

The organizers and the Paris town hall are continuing work on the river to allow the events to be held next summer. During her annual greetings, the mayor of the capital Anne Hidalgo even showed confidence on the subject. “I tell you again, in July 2024, I will swim in the Seine!”, she said from City Hall on January 10.

An optimism shared by the regional prefect of Île-de-France Marc Guillaume. On March 14, he affirmed that the depollution levels of the Seine and the Marne will be “achieved”. “We will achieve the depollution rate of 75% that we set for ourselves when the plan was launched four years ago. If we look at the standards in particular resulting from European texts which apply to assess the quality of the water and the bacteriological quality to enable these marathon and triathlon events, approximately two thirds of the depollution objectives had to be achieved. We should therefore be at three-quarters,” he explained.

At midday on Monday, Paris 2024 published a press release ensuring that “the Seine will be swimmable” this summer. The organizers provided details regarding the tests carried out by the NGO, recalling that the disinfection units of the water treatment plants were not operating at the time of these samples “which deprives them of scope”. “The first quarter of 2024 saw very heavy rains (250,000 ml over three months, double that of 2023), which degraded water quality. These weather conditions are not those of summer,” explains the press release.

But what happens if the results end up not being as expected? Paris 2024 has said it again and again for months: there is no plan B planned to date. “Mr Etanguet always said that there was no plan B,” confirmed the prefect. If the Seine is deemed impassable, the triathlon (1500m swim, 40km bike ride, and 10km run) would then transform into a duathlon with the removal of the swimming event. An option feared by triathletes who are used to swimming in unclean waters but who will comply with the decision of the International Swimming Federation.

Also read: Dorian Coninx, Olympic athlete: “We often swim in polluted waters”

If the triathlon, deprived of swimming, will still have its medalists, what about open water swimming, a 10 km marathon race? No alternative solution has been considered to date. A disaster for all the swimmers who have been preparing for the Paris meeting for years. At the beginning of March, Brazilian swimmer Ana Marcela Cunha, reigning Olympic champion, alerted French organizers to this risk of fiasco. The test event, scheduled for the summer of 2023, was also canceled due to pollution in the Seine.

“It’s a concern. There was no test event last year because of that, but (the organizers) insist on wanting the tests to take place there (…). We need a plan B in case it is not possible to swim” in the Seine, declared the 31-year-old swimmer. “It is not a question of erasing the history of the Seine, we know what the Alexandre-III bridge represents, the Eiffel Tower, but I think that the health of the athletes must come first,” argues the champion, according to which “the organizers must accept that, perhaps, it is unfortunately impossible to carry out the events where they want them”.

The situation on the Seine continues to cause cold sweats for the organizers of Paris 2024 who, in the absence of a plan B, have simply planned contingency days to deal with possible rains which could further pollute the river (heavy precipitation have the consequence, with runoff, of dumping dirty water into the Seine). The organizers could thus postpone the events by a few days (July 30, 31 and August 5 for the triathlon, August 8 and 9 for wetland swimming). hoping for a return to normal rates. “To our knowledge, for the moment, the different options are to be able to postpone the race days,” a source within the French Swimming Federation confirmed to Le Figaro on Monday.

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