Paris bosses ‘confident’ that Seine will be clean enough for Olympic events

France's sports minister says that she is 'confident' that the city will achieve its goal of making the River Seine clean enough to hold Olympic and Paralympic swimming events this summer.

Paris bosses 'confident' that Seine will be clean enough for Olympic events
This photograph taken in Paris on March 13, 2024, shows a general view of the construction site of the 30-meter-deep Austerlitz basin, a river Seine water storage and treatment basin, aiming to make the river cleaner for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. Photo by Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP

Sports minister Amélie Oudéa-Castéra says that she is “confident” in “achieving the objective of reducing bacteriological pollution of the Seine by 75 percent” after the publication on Monday of an alarming study about the quality of the water in the river where Olympic events are due to be held this summer.

The NGO Surfrider Foundation, which commissioned the study, warned on Monday of the “alarming” state of the waters of the Seine after carrying out a six-month sampling campaign outside the scheduled bathing season.

The Olympic events are the culmination of a long-term effort to clean up the Seine, which has been closed to swimmers since 1923 because of its pollution levels.

Olympic organisers and the city of Paris have set themselves the goal of holding Olympic events in the river this summer, and then opening up the Seine to swimming for members of the public once the Games are over.

It is envisaged that swimming spots will be set up in the summer, similar to the Paris Plage site at Bassin de la Villette, which has a swimming space in the Canal Ourcq every year.  

“We have confidence in the action plan led by the Préfet of Ile-de-France, a very ambitious plan on which we have been working for three years”, said the Minister, questioned by several MPs at a hearing before the Assembly’s Cultural Affairs Committee.

“We shouldn’t measure ahead of time”, she added, detailing the action plan currently underway. “We are confident in our ability to meet the target we have set ourselves of reducing bacteriological pollution in the Seine by 75 percent”, she added.

Paris City Council and the regional préfecture, which head the steering committee for the €1.4 billion plan to make the river swimmable, pointed out on Monday that five major structures designed to ensure a clean Seine in summer would be operational “within a few weeks”.

The Minister also pointed out that “contingency days”, ie postponement days, had been “made available” for the two types of event to be held on the Seine.

The triathlon events (July 30th and 31st and August 5th) and the open-water swimming event, now known as marathon swimming (August 8th and 9th), are still threatened by heavy rains.

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Paris Olympics opening ceremony rehearsal postponed due to strong Seine flow: city

A rehearsal for the Paris Olympics opening ceremony planned for Monday has been postponed because the river Seine is flowing so fast, city authorities said on Friday.

Paris Olympics opening ceremony rehearsal postponed due to strong Seine flow: city

After several weeks of rainy weather, the Seine is currently flowing at a level five times stronger than its normal summer reading, meaning it would be impossible to “draw the most relevant lessons” from a rehearsal on Monday, the city authorities and the Olympics organisers said.

The rehearsal was to have featured around 90 barges which will be used to transport teams on their parade down the river in the July 26 ceremony.

Paris 2024 will be the first Olympics in history to take the opening ceremony out of its traditional setting of the main Games stadium.

The recent heavy rain in the French capital is also bad news for the ongoing fight to raise the quality of the water in the Seine to levels required to stage the triathlon and open-water swimming events at the Olympics.

READ ALSO: Paris river Seine over Olympics pollution limit

The “very rainy weather” had caused “the strong flow of the river, which does not help to produce a good water quality”, Paris town hall said.

According to graphs posted online, almost every day from June 10 to June 16, the level of concentration of fecal E. Coli bacteria was greater than 1,000 colony-forming units, the required threshold used by the international triathlon and swimming federations.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has said she will take a dip in the Seine in the week beginning July 15.