A Seine swim? Oui or non?

Paris wouldn’t be Paris without the Seine.


The river’s no less than the city’s raison d’etre—it all started with a fishing village on what’s now the Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine, established by the Parisii tribe around 250 BCE. The Seine literally bisects the city, and in modern Paris, it’s truly a “working river”—a busy thoroughfare of commercial barges carrying freight and bateaux-mouches carrying tourists. And along its banks, people walk, jog, picnic, kiss, and fish.

What people don’t do, however, is swim in the Seine. Paris à la Nage (Swim Paris) is aiming to change that. A month after the Olympics, on September 2, Paris à la Nage wants to resuscitate an event that was started in 1905 and last staged 70 years. Basically, it’s a race in the Seine.

But the French police have issued a loud resounding “non.” Paris à la Nage’s modern-day organizers (who include a former French Olympiad) have planned two race distances (2.5 km and 10 km) and have had 3,300 people register already. But the official word from Préfecture de Police de Paris is that the waters of the Seine are “of manifestly insufficient quality for swimming” and the event would cause an unacceptable interruption in the river’s commercial and tourist traffic.

The Paris à la Nage organizers haven’t given up. They’re appealing the decision. They’ve set up an online petition. And they’re stirring the waters in the media. I’m betting that, no matter what happens to their appeals, there’ll be some swimming in the Seine in just a few weeks.