Swimming in the Seine in Paris again is set to be a reality next year, if the current clean-up project is a success.


It’s just one of the many developments changing in our city ahead of the Paris Olympic Games 2024.


We take a look at how the French government proposes to make this famous river safe to swim – in just a year’s time!



Not the first time…


Flowing for 485 miles through France, the Seine is one of the great symbols of Paris.


The river even helps to give the city its different districts, passing through the city from east to west and dividing it into two halves. These are the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) and the Rive Droite (Right Bank).


But if urban swimming in the Seine in Paris sounds like a far-fetched idea, it’s actually nothing new.


In fact, when Paris held the second modern Olympic Games back in 1900, the Seine hosted seven different swimming events.


And now, more than a century later, this outdoor activity is returning to the city. Only this time, everyone can enjoy an alfresco swim, not just the professional athletes!


Although Parisians and tourists will have to wait over a year before it’s their turn.



The Paris Summer Olympic Games 2024


The prospect of swimming in the Seine was part of Paris’s bid to host the Summer Olympic Games, back in 2017.


That seems like a long time ago, but now, the time is here to make the proposal a reality.


The Olympians are going first – swimmers competing in the 2024 Paris games are set to use the city’s river for triathlon and freestyle events. It means the Olympics are changing more in our city than just real estate prices.


After the athletes have gone home and the games are over, the Seine will be free and clean for Parisians and tourists to also swim. That’s the plan anyway.


But the price of cleaning up the river is exorbitant. It’s costing the government as much as €1 billion, according to some reports.


Although to put that sum in perspective, the Paris sanitation department already spends €500 million every year on keeping the city’s waterworks sanitary and safe.



City swimming in the Seine in Paris by next year


So, what are the plans to make the Seine swimmable again? And more importantly, how is this going to be achieved?


Known as the government Swimming Plan, it’s been on the cards for years and is a massive undertaking.


Put simply, thousands of new underground pipes are being laid, along with pump systems and storage tanks. It’s a complex new wastewater system, engineered to prevent bacteria entering the Seine, something that often occurs after heavy rainfall and storms.


Also, the discharge of wastewater from boats on the river is now strictly prohibited, with a large fine for those caught doing so.


Greater vegetation density is also in place along the riverbanks. This is to ensure rainwater runoff flows into the ground and enters the water table more naturally.


As more and more of the Swimming Plan takes shape, bacteria levels in the river are being monitored. The latest analyses taken in June 2023 gave ‘excellent results’ according to a government report.


The end goal is to have the bacteria at a totally safe level in time for next summer.



Will swimming in the Seine in Paris again really happen?


Some people have doubts.


However, Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris, has insisted that around 20 swimming areas are happening. Not just along the Seine, but also on a tributary further upstream known as the Marne.


These dedicated swimming areas are due to be ready by summer 2025, according to the mayor.


It’s the latest in a long line of plans to ‘green’ the city, which the mayor is now well known for. Just some of her other environmental and sustainability projects include the new Eiffel Tower park, the planting of urban forests, and the transformation of the Champs-Élysées.


Interestingly, the redevelopment of La Samaritaine department store actually used the Seine to transport waste materials out of the city, an innovative eco-conscious approach.


But with just one year to go, only time will tell if the post-Olympic city swimming plans really do emerge as a reality.



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Image: Luxigon