Swimming In The Seine: How Paris Is Cleaning Up Its River
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Swimming In The Seine: How Paris Is Cleaning Up Its River

Fancy swimming at the foot of the Eiffel Tower?

In 1923, swimming in the Seine was so filthy a prospect it was outlawed; a century later, it’s looking like the ban (with its €15 fine) might soon be lifted, with swimming actively encouraged. With one year to go until the Paris Olympics, here’s how the city is cleaning up the River Seine in time for the games.

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Swimming In The Seine: How Paris Is Cleaning Up Its River

Spurred by the fast-approaching Paris 2024 Olympic games, the French capital is cleaning up the River Seine and its surrounding streets, aiming to make the river so clean that it is swimmable. The efforts follow the likes of Zurich, Munich and Copenhagen all opening their inner-city rivers to swimmers. If Paris is successful, it will be the ‘world’s first giant urban area to have inner-city bathing’, according to TIME.

Investing over €1.4 billion towards the effort – most of which will be spent on a new storm drain – it’s a goal France has been pursuing as early as 1988, when Mayor Jacques Chirac promised to swim in the Seine within five years, a promise that was never fulfilled. But interest was renewed in 2016 when, according to Bloomberg, part of the city’s Olympic bid hinged on a clean River Seine, with a suggestion that the triathlon could be held in the murky waters. It’s a romantic dream, mirroring Paris’ first Olympic Games in 1900, when athletes took to the river to compete.

How Is Paris Cleaning The Seine?

The following measures will contribute to a spick and span River Seine:

  • A new underground rainwater storage tank, capable of holding up to 45,000 cubic metres of water. During rainstorms, the tank will hold rainwater, preventing it from overwhelming Paris’ sanitation network, which currently pulls untreated waste flow into the river.
  • A tunnel linking the new rainwater tank to the sewage system, where it will be treated before entering the river.

This, along with a city-wide clean up to prevent waste of all kinds finding its way into the water, will ensure the River Seine is swimmable in time for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. From 2025, Parisians will additionally benefit from 26 new swimming pools bracketed off from boat traffic in the Seine, four of which will be in the city centre.

Which Olympic Events Will Take Place In The Seine?

The 10K swimming marathon, the swimming portion of the triathlon, and a Paralympics swimming event will all take place in the Seine. They will start at a new venue under the Alexandre III bridge. This is also where the opening ceremony will commence, with athletes bobbing along the river on a flotilla of boats for 6km, firmly rooting the Games in the historic city and sailing past most of its famous landmarks.

Would you swim in the River Seine? When polled in 2021, Parisians were reluctant to don their swimsuits and take a dip in the famously filthy river, calling it dirty, polluted and smelly, even despite these plans being well underway. Perhaps it’ll take a little more convincing before our feeds are flooded with swimming pics snapped under the Eiffel Tower.

Featured image by Jarod Barton.