No more jokes. Less than two weeks after an open-water swimming test event sent back to the bottom, due to anything but summery weather, the Seine will begin its Olympic adventure this Thursday, August 17. With the Paris 2024 Games less than a year away (D – 344), the river will be gently shaken to the surface by a few dozen triathletes.
The triathlon test event, one of the few organized in a traditional format, in the form of an official competition, takes place from August 17 to 20 on the course of the next ones. In the Seine, for the swimming part.
The COJO Paris 2024, World Triathlon, Paris City Hall, the Préfecture de Police and the Ile-de-France region all gave their assurance, using almost the same words, on Wednesday August 16, during an online press briefing: the event will indeed take place, the water quality is satisfactory, and the weather will not cause any further problems. Let’s be clear: any other scenario would have ignited the controversy with the flash of an explosive.
With the Seine deemed suitable for swimming, according to World Triathlon standards, the OCOG will be able to concentrate on the essential: testing. Life-size. And, for once, in every dimension. As Brigitte Légaré, the COJO’s site manager for the central Paris zone, explained: “We’re going to test all the sporting aspects, but not just that.”
The list is long. Over the next four days, the triathlon test event will test the swimming section, the starting area and pontoon on Pont Alexandre III, buoys, equipment, course safety, timing and results.
The COJO will also take advantage of the opportunity to offer a miniature rehearsal of the conditions of a road race, the triathlon test event being the only competition offering such an opportunity. In a reduced format, over just 5 km (600 km of road events in total, next year, for the Olympic and Paralympic Games), but on the real course.
Transportation will also be tested. In a minimal version, here too, only for connections between the airport and the delegations’ hotels, then between the hotels and the competition site. The OCOG will also be testing spectator flows, thanks to the expected presence of 800 guests – 500 on the Alexandre III bridge, 300 on the lower quays of the Seine – compared to 2,000 next year.
Finally, the test event will feature a battalion of 500 volunteers, already recruited by Paris 2024. Held at the same time as another pre-Olympic event – the Paris leg of the Archery World Cup on the esplanade des Invalides – it will be used by Parisian organizers to test their strategy for interaction between several venues and disciplines in almost real-life conditions.
Safety? Minimal, too. But the Prefecture de Police is warming up its troops and honing its Olympic plan. “We’re going to test the articulation between all the parties and the accreditations“, explains its representative. The entire competition zone will be closed to traffic. Three to four hundred police officers will be mobilized over the four days of the test event.
Brigitte Légaré reiterated that the COJO has no plan B in case of bad weather next year, or if pollution levels make it impossible to take to the water in the Seine. “Plan B will be the Seine“, insists the Quebecer, pointing out that the Games program includes contingency days for any postponements of the competition.
Not to worry, then. As the Mayor of Paris has explained, there is still work to be completed before the Paris Games to ensure that the water is fit for swimming under all circumstances. Top of the list is a storage basin at Austerlitz. Total cost of the program: 1.4 billion euros.