In a bid to prepare for the 2024 Olympic Games, Paris is embarking on a substantial clean-up of the Seine River, a project which has been in the pipeline since 2018. The effort is part of the city’s larger initiative known as the “Swimming Plan,” designed to restore the river’s former glory and reinstate its role as a recreational hub for the city. The Paris city hall released a statement on July 10, emphasizing their aspiration to make aquatic leisure a central part of the city’s future. The ambitious €1.4 billion ($1.55 billion) plan aims to significantly reduce Seine’s bacterial pollution, primarily caused by wastewater. To do this, the city has embarked on a series of infrastructural improvements. The city is also enforcing regulations to ensure boat owners anchored along the Seine connect to the city’s wastewater network, preventing direct pollution into the river. Additionally, the city is rectifying poorly functioning plumbing across the city.
Progress So Far
These efforts are starting to bear fruit. A recent analysis in June showed impressive compliance with European regulations while testing in the parts of the river slated for Olympic events met standards 91% of the time from July 20 to August 11, 2022.
The 2024 Olympic Games
The Seine is slated to be a significant venue for the 2024 Olympic Games, hosting swimming events, para-triathlon, and triathlon events near the Alexandre III bridge. This marks a return to the tradition of the 1900 Games when swimming competitions were held in the river. In a historic move, the opening ceremony, traditionally held inside the host city’s Olympic stadium, will be conducted on the river. At least 600,000 people are expected to witness this spectacle from the riverbanks, a testament to the city’s confidence in the cleanup efforts. The aim is to revitalize the river’s role in Parisians’ daily lives and prepare the city for future environmental challenges.
After the Games: Public Swimming
From 2025, the public will be able to swim at three designated sites: Bras Marie, Bras de Grenelle, and Bercy. Furthermore, city hall officials have identified approximately 20 potential swimming sites in the broader Paris region, showing a commitment to making the river a crucial part of the city’s recreational future. The sites will feature marked swimming areas, pontoons for access, and facilities for changing, showering, and storing personal belongings. However, the Paris head of water cleaning services, Nicolas Londinsky, cautioned that guaranteeing swimming every day during the summer months may be challenging due to stormy weather and fluctuations in water quality.
The Challenge Ahead
While the city is optimistic about the project, some locals remain skeptical, expressing concerns about the river’s color and the occasional floating debris. Ensuring ongoing maintenance and cleanup, particularly upstream, will be crucial to allaying these concerns and making the river a safe and enjoyable place for all Parisians. Nonetheless, this initiative, spurred by the upcoming Olympic Games, is a significant step toward reconnecting Parisians with their river. It offers the promise of not only an unforgettable Olympic Games but also a restored Seine for future generations to enjoy.