Organizers of a triathlon event ahead of next year’s Paris Olympics said Wednesday that conditions have been met for athletes to swim in the River Seine in the coming days, after a previous test had to be cancelled earlier this month due to bad water quality.
Latest tests show water quality levels are back to acceptable standards, said Christophe Rosa, the deputy general delegate of the Paris Olympic and Paralympic delegation at Paris City Hall.
“We are monitoring water quality with a very robust process” that involves testing “almost hour by hour” through an automatic sampling system in addition to daily laboratory tests ”to guarantee the best conditions so that athletes can compete in complete safety especially regarding their health,” he detailed.
The event comes after the last-minute cancellation of a swimming competition which was due to take place in the Seine at the beginning of the month. Heavy rains had then caused overflows of untreated waste, deteriorating water quality to the point it was below standards for the Open Water Swimming World Cup event to be held.
Games organizers say the waterway will be better prepared in 2024 as Paris is spending massively on water-management projects that officials say will make pollution caused by storms less frequent.
Christophe Noël du Peyrat, chief of staff of the Paris region authority, said that “this first competition in the Seine is an important step in the fight to make the Seine a swimming area.”
Water quality improved when there’s a normal weather, he said, yet “we still have a lot of work ahead for year 2024 . . . to be able to face exceptional weather like what we’ve known at the end of July and beginning of August.” Rain levels then reached four times the usual average, he stressed.
Additional infrastructures in the works include a giant underground reservoir in Paris that will stock excess water during storms, so it doesn’t have to be spilled untreated into the river and can be treated later.
From Thursday to Sunday, triathletes and para-triathletes will race through the heart of Paris, swimming at the bottom of the spectacular 19th century Alexandre III bridge and its golden statues. They will ride bikes and run through some of the most prestigious neighborhoods of the capital city, including the Champs-Elysees avenue and alongside the Orsay Museum.
The men’s and women’s individual races will be over the Olympic standard distance: 1.5 kilometer (0.93 mile) swim, 40 kilometer (24.8 miles) bike and 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) run.
Brigitte Légaré, sport manager at the Paris 2024 organization committee, said the event also is a key test for logistics ahead of the Olympics. It is an occasion to make sure that safety on the Seine, timing system, security measures and control of spectators movement are operational, she said.
From 300 to 400 officers will be deployed, according to the Paris police prefecture.
Fans can attend the event for free — about 800 people received an invitation allowing them to be in the start and finish area while others are to line the course of the race.