75-Year-Old Swimmer Tests Paris’s Cleaned Seine Ahead of Olympics


On this Fourth of July, beneath the opalescent glow of the Parisian sky, a 75-year-old American swimmer bypassed the traditional fireworks display for a unique celebration. In honor of his country and to illuminate the French government’s environmental efforts, he plunged into the Seine River, undeterred by its reputation for murky waters. The Seine, a historical and symbolic feature of central Paris, has been the subject of intense clean-up efforts in the lead up to the Olympic Games.

Timing is indeed everything. Hours after the septuagenarian’s aquatic venture, regional authorities published uplifting data, outlining a promising improvement in water quality over the past week. As a result, the Seine River may very well witness the ripples of Olympic swimmers in the near future.

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The audacious American, Joel Stratte McClure, is no stranger to the Seine. In 1976, he swam its currents for a magazine cover shoot. Impressed by the progress made since his last encounter, McClure, however, couldn’t help but echo lingering concerns about the safety of the river.

“Having swum in it, I may feel a pang of regret,” McClure candidly confessed before his plunge. “But, if I emerge alive, it will stand as a testament to the success of the French in restoring the river.”

Meanwhile, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who initially devised a plan to demonstrate the river’s cleanliness via her own swim, had to postpone due to a whirlwind of political affairs. President Emmanuel Macron’s sudden call for legislative elections stirred nationwide tensions, overshadowing the wave of pre-Olympic anticipation. To add to the mayor’s woes, a series of heavy rains have resulted in faster currents, further delaying her swim to mid-July. McClure, however, humorously quipped, “I think the president organized new elections to avoid swimming in the Seine.”

Back on the banks of Seine, post-swim, McClure’s verdict was nothing less than enthusiastic. Exclaiming the water to be “fantastic”, he radiated hope that others would follow suit and bask in the renewed purity of the river.

The Olympic marathon swimming and triathlon events are slated to occur in the Seine, near the Alexandre III bridge. The Olympics will kick off on July 26 and conclude on August 11, with the Paralympics following suit from August 28 to September 8.

Notwithstanding the Seine’s troubled history with E. coli contamination, with unsafe levels detected for three consecutive weeks, new findings released on Thursday show a significant improvement. As per the monitoring group, Eau de Paris, aside from one day, contamination levels from June 26 to July 2 were under the safe limit of 900 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters, a benchmark determined by the World Triathlon Federation.

French officials stand firm in their optimism, ardently declaring that there is no Plan B for the Olympic open-water swimming events. As for McClure, his Fourth of July adventure in the Seine River is one for the books, shedding light on Paris’s continued efforts to preserve their iconic river while celebrating his American roots.