Paris 2024 relief as Seine passes water quality test weeks after World Cup cancellation due to waste levels
River quality in The Seine has become a talking point ahead of the 2024 Olympics after failing a quality test earlier this month.
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Paris 2024 organisers are breathing a sigh of relief after the River Seine passed a new water quality test after a triathlon event in the famous river was cancelled earlier this month due to untreated waste.
The Open Water Swimming World Cup had been booked to take place in the Seine as a trial event ahead of next year's Olympics but was cancelled this month after heavy rain washed flushed untreated waste into the river, which then failed a health and safety quality test. The French Swimming Federation confirmed that “the water quality in the Seine has remained below acceptable standards for safeguarding swimmers’ health”.
Heavy rain has hit Paris in recent weeks with five times more water falling in comparison with this time last year, the most the city has seen in 20 years.
However, on Wednesday, a new test of the water green-lighted conditions to allow swimmers to take to the water in the coming days for a test event organised by Paris 2024 from August 17 - 20.
French open-water swimmer and World Champion Aurelie Muller told Paris 2024, le grand defi: "I've swam in places dirtier than that. That doesn't scare us but people do fall ill, which isn't nice. We got on with it because we must, it's the sport. Nonetheless, you've got to be careful and it's good that France is making efforts to focus on that.
"For us, swimming 10 kilometres, we don't realise but we do drink the water. The day after, for our digestive systems, it's not great for a few days."
The return of swimming to The Seine has been a major story in the Paris 2024 preparations as organisers launched a dramatic clean-up plan to return the river to a non-polluted state a century after swimming was banned due to the mucky water. The goal is to have Olympic events taking place near the city's famous Alexandre III bridge, next to the Grand Palais and Eiffel Tower.
An estimated £1.2 billion has been spent on fixing the French capital's waterways so that Olympic and Paralympic triathlon, marathon swimming and Para-triathlon can take place in the River Seine. The hope is then for three open-water swimming areas to be accessible from 2025.
Works include the creation of four underground reservoirs in the city, the largest in Austerlitz being the size of 200 Olympic swimming pools, to store excess water during storms to prevent waste discharge into the river. There is also a contingency plan to allow swimming events to take place on different dates than planned in the Olympics should a water quality test be failed.
The situation in Paris comes shortly after 88 athletes fell ill after competing in the UK leg of the World Triathlon Championship series in Sunderland. The UK Health Security Agency North East has now found the 'most likely' cause of that sickness to be Norovirus.