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Olympic Games Triathlon: Seine water quality ‘NOT GOOD ENOUGH’ for swimming, just weeks ahead of Paris 2024

Reports from France suggest that the water quality in the River Seine is currently not good enough for the triathlon swims to take place next month.

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We are just over five weeks away from the Olympic Games triathlon at Paris 2024, and there are again major concerns over the swim legs being held in the River Seine.

Despite a huge clean-up operation in the Parisian waterway, costing a reported €1.4bn (£1.18bn), some of the races at last year’s Olympic and Paralympic Test events were reduced to duathlon status with the water quality not meeting required standards.

Fast forward 10 months, and it appears the concerns are still very much alive, with a report released on Friday sounding further alarm bells ahead of triathlon’s biggest dance of all.

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‘Standards not met’ for open water swimming

According to a report in respected French outlet Le Monde, tests carried out in recent days showed the water in the Seine ‘did not meet the standards’ for open water swimming at the Games.

The report cited the presence of two kinds of fecal bacteria, including E. coli, when the water was tested last Sunday (June 16). It said the levels of E. coli were too high at four different locations on the river.

Speaking on Friday, Paris region prefect Marc Guillaume admitted: “Samples from the Seine do not meet the standards we will have this summer”.

The report blamed heavy rain for the high rates of bacteria in the Seine, revealing: “Water quality remains degraded due to… rain, high flow, little sunshine (and) temperatures below seasonal norms”.

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Last time round

Friday’s reports will surely cause major concern for both the IOC and World Triathlon, with just over one month until sport’s greatest show on earth hits the French capital.

It was the Mixed Relay at last year’s Test Event which had to be reduced to a duathlon because of sub-standard water quality, while it was a similar story for the races at World Triathlon Para Cup Paris.

The two individual races at the Test Event were able to go ahead as planned, won by British stars Beth Potter and Alex Yee.

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Will things improve for Paris 2024?

We asked World Triathlon for their position on this controversial topic back in April, and at that stage they remained confident that the water quality would be improved sufficiently in time for the swims to take place as planned.

They told us: “Both World Triathlon and Paris 2024 have every confidence in the ability of all those involved in the work undertaken to make the Seine swimmable by the summer of 2024.

“The project to make the Seine swimmable was initiated over 30 years ago. The project involves a large number of public entities, […], and the aim of the project is to clean up the river and achieve the water quality required by European directives.

“By the time the Games come around, the various facilities and infrastructures in place for the Seine clean-up will have reduced bacteriological pollution by 75%.”

What are the contingency plans?

So the individual triathlon races at Paris are set to take place on July 30 and July 31, with the Mixed Relay on August 5.

When asked in April, World Triathlon told us the following contingency plans are in place if the water quality is not good enough on those days.

“If the water quality on any of the competition days during the Olympics is not within the limits, the first option is to use the reserve days. 

“These days are considered in the programme, and have been agreed and discussed with Paris and broadcasters to ensure the same experience not only for athletes but also for spectators and TV viewers. 

“The reserve days for triathlon are one day later for each of the events. The reserve days are part of the whole Olympics operational plan, and have been agreed, discussed and planned for over a year with all the relevant parties.”

If the water quality is still not good enough on the reserve days, the race format will then be altered, with athletes racing over an Olympic distance duathlon consisting of a 5km run, 40km bike and 10km run.

We reached out to World Triathlon to ask for an up-to-date comment regarding water quality, and you can read their full statement by clicking here.

Graham Shaw
Written by
Graham Shaw
Graham has been involved with TRI247 & RUN247 since the summer of 2021. Since then he has provided strategic direction for all news and is passionate about the growth of triathlon as a fan sport.
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