Paris Olympics Reveal Vaires-sur-Marne as Open Water Alternative to Seine

Photo Courtesy: Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto

Paris Olympics Reveal Vaires-sur-Marne as Open Water Alternative to Seine

The Paris Olympic organizing committee on Friday revealed its backup plan if the Rive Seine is not suitable for open water swimming at the Olympics next month.

A Paris 2024 spokesperson told Reuters that the rowing venue at the Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium could be drafted in. That venue in Torcy, Ile-de-France, will host rowing and canoe sprint and slalom events at two different courses, the latter the whitewater course. The rowing course could fill the place for marathon swimming and the swimming portion of the triathlon event if the Seine is not suitable for swimming. It is located 35 kilometers west of central Paris.

“The rules of World Triathlon allow, as a final resort, for the competition to be held in a duathlon format. On the other hand, in order to guarantee that marathon swimming events could still be held if all other contingency plans were exhausted, we have initiated a fallback plan based on the Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium,” a Paris 2024 spokesperson told Reuters.

Triathlon is due to be held on July 30 and 31, with the mixed relay on Aug. 4. The women’s 10-kilometer open water race is Aug. 8, with the men on Aug. 9. Accommodating the cycling and running portions of the triathlon is the more onerous adjustment of the two, though the sport is desperate to avoid truncating the race to just cycling and running.

Paris 2024 organizers had steadfastly clung to the Seine as an open water venue. The committee envisions cleaning up the Seine as one of the Olympics’ legacies, and it has put the river at the heart of Paris front and center for its opening ceremonies.

The Seine has been notoriously dirty for decades. The Paris city government has shown that the water quality is improving, with levels of enterococci and E. coli below legal thresholds for six of nine days from June 24-July 2. Factors such as drainage and rainfall both locally and in the larger region have big effects on water quality.

The river was not clean enough to stage a demonstration event last summer, and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo postponed a dip in the river last month due to conditions.

“We have every confidence in the work undertaken by the State, the City of Paris and all the parties involved to make the Seine swimmable so that the events can take place there as planned,” the Paris 2024 spokesperson said.

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