Workers are seen dismantling a temporary venue to host a pre-Olympic swimming test competition that was canceled on Sunday. Bertrand Guay/AFP/Getty Images Paris CNN —
A swimming competition that was supposed to serve as a test event ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics was canceled due to poor water quality in the Seine, casting doubt over the French government’s audacious plan to clean up the famous river before next summer.
World Aquatics, the international governing body for swimming and water sports, and the Paris 2024 organizing committee said above-average rainfall in July had left the Seine too polluted to swim in. The decision to cancel the event, the Open Water Swimming World Cup, was made by World Aquatics in consultation with the French Swimming Federation (FFN) and public health authorities.
“World Aquatics is disappointed that water quality in the Seine has resulted in the cancellation of the World Aquatics Open Water Swimming World Cup, but the health of our athletes must always be our top priority,” said World Aquatics President Husain Al-Musallam.
Olympic organizers expressed confidence that the Seine would be better prepared for swimmers when the Games open next year. The Paris 2024 organizing committee in a statement that new infrastructure will be put in place to further improve the water treatment in rainy weather by the start of the Paris Olympics. Contingency measures, such as postponing competitions due to water quality, are also being planned.
Paris plans to make the river Seine the centerpiece of the Olympics. It will feature prominently in the opening ceremony, while several swimming events, paratriathlon and triathlon events are set to take place in its waters.
Swimmer left ‘frustrated’
Clean up efforts have been underway since 2018. Two disinfection units at wastewater treatment plants run by the Paris region public sanitation service will be operational from this summer, and structures that will help to improve water quality, such as a rainwater storage basin, are under construction.
The Paris 2024 organizing committee said that despite the rain, the Seine’s water quality remained clean enough by public health standards to hold swimming competitions, “thus demonstrating the significant progress made.”
French swimmer Caroline Jouisse said she was “frustrated” by the cancellation, adding that the event would have been a “great opportunity” to test the Seine’s waters before the Olympics.
“I am nevertheless happy that all measures have been put in place. Until the last moment and again this morning at 4 a.m. they took samples, they did their best to allow us to swim and that’s great,” she said.
Jouisse added that she remains “confident” for the future.
Paris 2024 said that in the coming days the water quality will be “carefully” monitored. A test triathlon and paratriathlon event is scheduled from August 17 to 20.
“One year before the Games, the sanitation dynamic continues with the completion of the most significant work to improve water quality in the coming months, in particular to deal with these exceptional weather events,” Paris 2024 said.
CNN’s Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report