The Seine Was Taboo for a Century. Now, Swimmers Rejoice

Paris to allow public to swim in river starting in 2025, more than 100 years after ban was instituted
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 30, 2023 2:00 PM CDT
Taking a Dip in the Seine Will Soon Be Legal Again
A boat cruises on the Seine, with the Eiffel Tower in the background, on July 17 in Paris.   (AP Photo/Aurelien Morissard)

When Georges Seurat painted Bathers at Asnieres in 1884, his scene of people frolicking in the Seine was one that reflected real life, as the French back then were permitted to swim in the river. Bathing in the Seine was banned less than 30 years after that, though "rogue" swimmers have continued taking the plunge for years. Soon, however, the general public will get to live like they're in the 19th century again: The Guardian reports that in two years' time, the Seine will once more be open for swimming.

A handful of Olympic and Paralympic events were already scheduled to be held in the Seine's waters during next year's Summer Games in Paris, but authorities say that by 2025, three open-air swimming spots will open for everyday recreation—one in the middle of the city, near the Ile Saint-Louis island, and one each on the eastern and western ends of Paris. The capital's mayor, Anne Hidalgo, says that lifeguards will monitor each swim area. There will also be "spaces where swimmers will be able to change, shower, and keep their belongings safe," according to a statement from City Hall.

The Seine was shut down for swimming in 1923 due to the condition of the water, which sees sewage overflows from the city's underground tunnels when it rains too hard. Authorities, however, say they hope a $1.6 billion cleanup initiative, including the construction of a reservoir to hold the overflow, will make a big difference, reports the BBC. One local who jumps in the Seine on the regular warns of another problem swimmers may have to contend with. "There is no shortage of rats in Paris, including along the quays," he says. A water quality official with the city tells the BBC "we will certainly be monitoring and taking action" to get rid of any rodents spotted in the water. (More Seine stories.)

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