In 1988, Jacques Chirac made a never-fulfilled promise to make swimming accessible in the Seine River within 5 years. With swimming in the Seine officially banned by the French government in 1923, the river has been neglected for decades, flooded with high levels of bacteria and pollution resulting from industrialization and urbanization. With the XXXIII Olympic Games happening in Paris, Mayor Anne Hidalgo has drafted a “Swimming Plan,” aiming to finally transform the Seine River into a swimmable urban waterway. The billion-dollar effort outlines the river as a venue for this summer’s aquatic Olympic events.
Throughout history, rivers played a crucial role in the social structures of cities. Along riverbanks, communities often congregated for socializing, swimming, and fishing. Swimming in rivers was a popular summertime activity enjoyed by people of all ages. Whether it was the Thames in London or the Seine in Paris, rivers were bustling with swimmers; integrated into urban lifestyles.