Parisians Dive into Clean Seine

Parisians Dive into Clean Seine
Parisians Dive into Clean Seine

The water is barely above ten degrees Celsius, but that's "very comfortable" for the fifteen or so swimmers who are taking a dip in the Seine at L'Ile-Saint-Denis, downstream from Paris.

The group known as the 'Ourcqs polaires' are used to swimming in the the Ourcq canal, north of the capital, but are taking advantage of a mammoth effort to clean the Seine -- due to host the Olympic triathlon and distance swimming events this summer -- to take their hobby to the famed river.

Going for a dip in the Seine on a hot summer’s day has been the pipe dream of many Parisians since swimming in the river was formally banned a century ago.

But floating on your back under the Eiffel Tower could soon become reality thanks to the Paris Olympics.

Like Zurich and Munich before it, Paris has been reclaiming its river, with one of three new urban “beaches” to open under the windows of its historic town hall next year, with another almost at the foot of the Eiffel Tower.

Nearly 30 more – complete with pontoons, showers and parasols – are planned for the suburbs and along the Marne, which flows into the Seine just east of the French capital.

Some $1.5 billion has been spent on colossal public works to counter pollution, with Hidalgo vowing to swim in the Seine herself in late June. French President Emmanuel Macron says he too will take the plunge – but is coy about saying exactly when.

For many, it feels like a long-held fantasy is finally within reach – a return to an 18th-century idyll when Parisians splashed naked in the Seine. But there is a big if to all this: the fluctuations in the Seine’s water quality after storms.

The river will be the star of the opening ceremony of the Games on July 26 and will host the triathlon and the swimming marathon. Then, if all goes well, Parisians and tourists will be able to dive in next summer.