World Triathlon responds to Olympic Games fears with Seine water quality still not good enough for Paris 2024 swims

World Triathlon says it has “great confidence” that the water quality in the River Seine will allow the swims to take place as planned at next month’s Olympic Games.

An incredible €1.4bn (£1.18bn) has been spent on cleaning up the iconic waterway to make it safe to swim in for the first time in 100 years. But just over a month out, concerns remain over the events planned for Paris 2024.

Latest test results spark fresh concern

Results of the latest tests were released by local authorities on Friday, and they showed the water quality still not up to the standard required to allow swims to take place.

The report cited the presence of two kinds of fecal bacteria, including E. coli, and said the levels of E. coli were too high at four different locations on the river. The report blamed heavy rain for the high rates of bacteria, revealing: “Water quality remains degraded due to… rain, high flow, little sunshine (and) temperatures below seasonal norms”.

We asked World Triathlon for its response to the latest results, and it remains confident that the races will go ahead as planned, with no requirement to downgrade to duathlons. It re-iterated that those recent readings had been impacted by the prevailing weather conditions in the French capital.

A statement read: “For Paris 2024 and World Triathlon, the health and safety of athletes is a shared top priority. Paris 2024 and World Triathlon have continued to carefully monitor water quality and will do so in the days and hours leading to familiarisations and racing. 

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

“We have great confidence in the work of the City of Paris authorities to ensure the water quality will meet the necessary standard for Triathlon and Marathon Swimming competitions during the Games. We are still more than one month away and the conditions are improving, even though some of the latest results are impacted by the meteo conditions in Paris in the last weeks (heavy rains). 

“Generally, water quality in the Seine continues to improve every day. By the time of the Games, bacteriological pollution in the Seine will have been reduced by 75% thanks to the range of actions undertaken by our partners. 


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Seine clean-up ‘a major achievement’

“It’s important to remember that this project to make the Seine swimmable after 100 years is a major achievement – a project first imagined 30 years ago, which is coming to fruition with the Games and will have long-term benefits for the local and tourist populations as well as the river ecosystem, its biodiversity and wider public health.

“Since the 2023 test events, surveillance of upstream sanitation networks and other potential sources of pollution has been stepped up with the aim of avoiding any incidents such as those that led to two race cancellations last August.

“Most significantly, a new rainwater storage facility, the Austerlitz basin, was inaugurated earlier this year (May 2024.) It is capable of storing 50,000 cubic metres of water – the equivalent of 20 Olympic swimming pools – and will greatly reduce the risk of wastewater being discharged into the Seine during periods of exceptional rainfall.”

“Unlike during the test events, water quality will be tested twice daily during the Games and we have contingency days scheduled within the competition calendar.”

Olympic triathlon dates, and contingency plans

The individual triathlon races are due to take place on July 30 and 31, with the Mixed Relay on August 5. If water quality issues were to scupper both those dates, and the contingency days, races would have to be staged as duathlons.

The Mixed Relay at last year’s Test Event was downgraded to a duathlon due to sub-standard water quality. Races at World Triathlon Para Cup Paris also had to be staged as duathlons.

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