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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

E. Coli Concerns Could Jeopardize Olympic Events: The Backup Plan

  • Open-water swimming competitions are set to take place in the Seine river.
  • Water quality remains unsafe with the Games beginning this month.
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

As the start of the Paris Olympics draws near—they’re just 18 days away—signs are pointing to one of the most ambitious ideas of the Summer Games being a bust.

The opening ceremony is set to take place July 26 along the Seine river, with a record 300,000 spectators expected to observe from land. Originally, organizers projected 600,000 fans would be able to watch before slashing the number in half due to security concerns and crowd control. Still, it will be the first opening ceremony outside the main Olympic stadium.

Four days later, that body of water is supposed to host the swimming portion of the men’s individual triathlon event. But unsafe levels of E. coli (bacteria in fecal matter) found in the Seine continue to make the reality of competition happening in the river more uncertain. Swimming during the women’s and mixed relay triathlon are also set for the Seine, as well as men’s and women’s marathon swimming.

Now There’s a Plan B

Previously, Olympic organizers were reluctant to announce a backup plan for those swimming events if the Seine was still deemed unsafe during the Games, only saying the competitions could be delayed if necessary. But now Paris officials have changed their tune.

The reality of not swimming in the Seine during the Olympics has finally been acknowledged. Organizers revealed that marathon swimming could move to Vaires-sur-Marne Nautical Stadium, which will be hosting canoeing and rowing events. The triathlon, though, could become a duathlon, with the swimming portion simply not taking place at all. Delaying competitions remains an option, too.

Let the Games Begin

The quality of the Seine river is likely to remain a hot issue over the next few weeks. Olympians could force the issue by refusing to compete if they feel unsafe upon arriving in Paris and seeing the water.

The situation represents one of the many larger issues facing the Paris Olympics, including budget concerns, security threats, and disagreements over prize money. 

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