Poor water quality halts Paris Olympics swimming test event in the Seine
PARIS (AP) — Another Paris Olympics test run in the Seine River was canceled on Saturday because of concerns about water quality, in a fresh blow to Games organizers and the city’s ambitions to reopen the iconic river to public swimming.
Triathlon swimmers took to the Seine in competition on Thursday and Friday, but results of water quality tests showed “significant discrepancies” in the hours leading up to Saturday’s scheduled paratriathlon events, organizers said in a statement. The competition was transformed into a duathlon of just running and biking.
Water safety officials are trying to determine why two testing systems used for the river produced different results. One indicated too-high levels of bacteria overnight, said Pierre-Antoine Molina, who oversees public policy for the Paris regional administration. Rainfall in recent days may have been a factor.
A previous test event had to be canceled this month because heavy rain caused overflows of untreated waste in the Seine, leaving water quality below safety standards. Rainfall also hit Paris ahead of Saturday’s cancellation.
Paris is spending massively on water-management projects that officials say will make pollution caused by storms less frequent.
Olympics organizers remain undeterred in their mission to hold open-air swimming events along the picturesque river, viewing this month's cancellations as a learning experience.
The head of the Paris 2024 organizing committee, Tony Estanguet, said a contingency plan will be in place next year to allow swimming events to be postponed for a few days if water quality isn't up to standard.
But there's no plan B for moving the competition.
"We will remain in this extraordinary location, no matter what happens,'' said Estanguet, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in canoe slalom. ‘’We want to preserve this ambition.''
The plan for Olympic and Paralympic athletes to swim in the Seine dovetails with çity hall's efforts to clean up the long-murky waterway. Paris has promised more transparency about its cleanup efforts than Rio de Janeiro, where concerns about sewage-contaminated water dogged the 2016 Olympics.
This week's triathlon takes athletes and spectators — watching for free — to some of the French capital’s most striking vistas: The swim starts from the bottom of the 19th-century Alexandre III bridge and its golden statues. The bike and run laps go along the Champs-Elysees and through some prestigious neighborhoods.
New tests will be conducted and a decision will be made early Sunday on whether Sunday’s swimming events can be held as scheduled, organizers said.
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