Olympic Games triathlon: Paris 2024 chief pinpoints crucial date in race against time to hold swims in the River Seine

The bid to stage the planned open water swims in the River Seine for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games triathlon appears set to go right down to the wire next month.

The 1.4bn/1.18bn/$1.5bn cleanup operation to make the waterway swimmable for the first time in a century continues, as yet without the desired results.

Tests last week showed the water in the Seine was not yet up to the standard required for swimming – with the Games just over a month away. The results of recent tests on the water (carried out on June 16) showed the presence of two kinds of fecal bacteria, including E. coli. Levels of E. coli were too high to allow swimming at four different locations on the river.

On Wednesday (June 26), Marc Guillaume, prefect of the Île-de-France region, again referenced the heavy rains which have severely hampered the bid to make the water swimmable so far, and admitted that “summer weather” is required to improve water quality.

Paris 2024 chief on Seine water quality

The issues caused by recent weather were referenced again by Tony Estanguet, President of the Paris 2024 organising committee. He believes it will be weeks rather than days before we get a clearer picture of the situation heading into the Games. Uncomfortably close to those triathlon events – scheduled for July 30 and 31 and August 5.

He told Le Figaro (via AFP): “It seems to be improving a little, we will see more clearly in mid-July.

‘This is one of the things we are monitoring closely, we always knew that the water quality would not be there until July 2024.”

Olympic Games Triathlon Paris Test Event Swim River Seine August 2023
Triathletes emerge from the swim in the River Seine during the Olympic Games Triathlon Paris Test Event in August 2023 (Photo – World Triathlon).

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Triathlon great Mark Allen on duathlon fears

World Triathlon told us over the weekend that they have “great confidence” that the water quality WILL be sufficiently good to allow the triathlons to include the planned open water swims in the Seine.

Triathlon great Mark Allen though, says he and likely others retain a “nagging feeling in the pit of our stomachs” as the clock ticks down to the opening event. He believes any downgrade to duathlon status would leave the sport as the biggest loser of all.

“The sport will look like a second-rate event, even though the switch from triathlon to duathlon would be of no fault of the sport.

“Think of it this way. What other sport in the Olympics would tolerate the entire format of it being changed at 3:00am the day of competition? None. Downhill skiing would never make a competitor add in a slalom to contest for the downhill gold because on the day of competition the course was icy!”

Contingency plans

World Triathlon have said testing in the Seine will be stepped up during the days leading up to the Games, and during. Levels will be monitored twice daily to give organisers an accurate picture of the latest situation.

Reserve days are scheduled for all three of the triathlon events, but should those also be impacted by sub-standard water quality, races would be amended to duathlon format.

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