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Giant reservoir ready for service as Paris 2024 Olympic Games loom

Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo on Thursday inaugurated a colossal storage basin that will help reduce the risks of pollution in the Seine as the Olympics approach and make the river suitable for bathing.

The primary goal is to have the Seine batheable by 2025, with the Paris Games boosting that aim, even though some sporting events were cancelled last summer as health standards were not met after rare heavy rains and a sewer problem.

The city has been building a storage basin capable of holding 46,000 cubic metres of waste water to significantly reduce the risks of pollution in the Seine.

It will now start to operate before the end of the month.

“It’s a childhood dream coming true. Remember when you were 10 years old, sitting by a lake and wishing to take a dive,” Hidalgo said.

“In Paris, our dream was to bathe in the river like the Parisians used to do 100 years ago. The Olympics gave this project a huge boost.”

The water will be tested every day during the Olympics to make sure it will be safe for the triathlons and open water swimming in the Seine. The Games start on July 26.

Once the rain is collected in the Austerlitz basin – a monster, 30-metre deep structure the size of a dozen Olympic swimming pools – it will be moved through a tunnel beneath the train station to a treatment plant.

When the water meets the required health criteria it will then be poured into the Seine.

Former Paris mayor Jacques Chirac in 1988 promised he would swim in the Seine “in the presence of witnesses”. Current mayor Hidalgo is about to make that dream come true, although any mishap during the Olympics would be seen as a setback.

“It’s a fantastic legacy for the Parisians,” said Tony Estanguet, head of the Paris 2024 organising committee.

“We’ll be the first ones to benefit from the basin (with the Olympics), but we did it for the environment and for the quality of the water to be dramatically improved.”

Photo: View of the Austerlitz wastewater and rainwater storage basin, which is intended, among other things, to make the Seine swimmable during the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, in Paris, France May 2, 2024. Stephane De Sakutin/Pool via REUTERS

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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