Race organizers are fighting against the clock – Seine’s water is too dirty to organize Olympic swimming | Sport

Race organizers are fighting against the clock – Seines water

The swimming part of the triathlon and the marathon swimming should be held in the river, but the exceptionally rainy early summer has weakened the water quality.


Attempts have been made to clean the Seine river for decades – and now a turbo gear is in use. The goal is to make the river swimmable first for Olympic athletes and next year for the whole nation.

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has promised to take a dip in the river in a couple of weeks to prove its purity. The city dwellers are suspicious of the schedule.

– I have heard that some Parisians are planning to go to the Seine for their needs, in order to disrupt the politicians’ swimming plans. So I don’t know what will become of this whole thing, says the Parisian Lucie Cassin.

Cassin says he thinks cleaning the river is a good idea in itself.

– However, the rush related to the Olympics seems incredible, there is so much suspicious floating in the river at the moment, he laughs.

Last-minute help is hoped for from the new purification plants

In Paris, a few weeks ago, a new cesspool was put into use, where waste and rainwater is collected. The purpose is to prevent dirty water from flowing directly into the river.

Two new water treatment plants have also been built in the upper reaches of Seinen, the first of which was put into operation in March and the second will start operating at the beginning of July.

It is hoped that the new facilities will have time to clean the water to a good enough quality for the Olympic Games.

All ship traffic is also planned to be banned on the section of the Seine through Paris a week before the start of the Olympics.

The rainwater drains along the Seinen branch have also been renewed and the asphalt pavements have been replaced with rainwater-permeable sand and grass.

Environmental organization: swimming is not safe

The cleaning work has been slowed down by the heavy rains at the beginning of the year, due to which the river flow is currently up to four times stronger than usual. In addition to rains and floods, wastewater from houseboats and restaurants and, for example, dog poop cause challenges.

According to the environmental organization Surfrider, which collected water samples from the Seine, the water quality is currently too bad for swimming. An NGO founded by surfers has been collecting samples from the Seine since last September.

– In the most recent measurement, the water still contained enterococci and colibacter, which are faecal-derived bacteria. The limit values ​​were clearly exceeded, says the analyst of the Surfrider organization Marc Valmassoni.

According to Valmasson, swimming in the Seine is currently a health risk. Bacteria can cause eye and ear infections, stomach disease and skin symptoms, but also more serious diseases.

– It is practically impossible to protect yourself from bacteria. They enter the body when swallowed or, for example, through a wound on the skin, says Valmassoni.

The race organizers are hoping for clear weather in the coming weeks

The environmental organization considers it unlikely that the water quality would improve sufficiently by the time of the Olympics.

– It will be interesting to see if the water quality improves with the installation of new cleaning equipment. I’m not very optimistic, because all the samples have been bad, says Valmassoni.

The city of Paris has carried out its own measurements on the Seine, the results of which have not yet been made public. However, the authorities have assured that the athletes’ health will not be endangered.

– We understand very well that people have questions about Seine’s suitability for swimming. However, I can assure you that we do not take any risks regarding the health of the athletes, says the Deputy Mayor of Paris Pierre Rabadan.

The race organizers hope that the next few weeks in Paris will be as dusty as possible – and that the threats spread on social media about excrement protests against politicians will at least not come true.

Cleaning the wall has cost around 1.5 billion euros so far. After the Olympics, public swimming pools are planned to be opened along the river, for the first time in a hundred years.

Swimming in the clean Seine has been a long-time dream of many Parisians.

– I think it would be wonderful to be able to swim in the river of my own hometown someday. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Olympic swimming will also be successful. I think it’s still possible, says the Parisian Clara Weckerle.