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1 Mar, 2024 06:29

Macron promises to swim in Seine

Paris will use the river for the opening ceremony of the 2024 Olympics, and as a site for swimming competitions
Macron promises to swim in Seine

French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed to swim in the river Seine that flows through Paris in an apparent attempt to prove it’s clean, ahead of the forthcoming Olympic games to be hosted in the country's capital in July and August.

Macron made the pledge without specifying an exact date, as he officially inaugurated the Olympic village, which will host some 14,500 athletes and their staff before welcoming 9,000 for the Paralympics this summer.

Paris has been working on a project to clean up the Seine to make it swimmable for the first time in a century. During the 1900 Paris Olympics, multiple swimming events took place in the river. Since 1923, however, the practice has been banned because of high levels of water pollution.

“You bet I will,” Macron said when challenged by a reporter on whether he would take a dip in the Seine. “I will do it, but I won’t give you the date, or you risk being there,” he joked.

The €1.4 billion ($1.5 billion) plan for the river involved a renovation of infrastructure, including new underground pipes and pumps. Water quality specialists say concentration levels for two bacteria, Enterococcus and E.coli, both used as the primary indicators of fecal material in fresh waters, were low enough to safely swim in the river.

The main risk comes from heavy rainstorms, when water pours into the Parisian sewage system, causing an overflow risk. Excess rain is then discharged into the river and may lead to pollution. Last summer a sewage leak led to the cancellation of a pre-Olympic swimming event.

Paris hopes to reap the benefits beyond the Olympics, with the village planned to be turned into an eco-friendly area featuring schools, a hotel, a public park, shops and offices after the Games.

Parisians will also have access to 26 new swimming pools in the Seine, walled off from heavy boat traffic, expected to publicly open by 2025, four of them in the city center. In recent years, other European cities, such as Zurich, Munich, Vienna and Copenhagen, have opened urban swimming.