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A traffic signs prohibits access to the banks of the Seine during preparation works for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games in Paris on July 4, 2024. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP) (Photo by JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN’s Abril Elfi
1:08 PM – Thursday, July 4, 2024

A 75-year-old American swimmer swam in the Seine River in central Paris on Thursday to celebrate Independence Day and raise awareness of the French government’s efforts to clean up the river in preparation for the Olympic Games.

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A few hours later, regional authorities made data available that indicated the river’s water quality had improved over the previous week, reviving hopes that it might be able to host swimming events for the Olympics.

Joel Stratte McClure, who turns 76 this month, last swam in the Seine for a magazine cover shoot in 1976. Despite his admiration for the cleanup efforts, McClure expressed concerns about the river’s safety. 

“I may regret having swam,” McClure said before entering the water. “But if I come back alive, it will prove that the French have done a good job cleaning up the river.”

When Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo first announced her intention to swim in the Seine last month to demonstrate the river’s cleanliness, a number of her detractors threatened to urinate in the river on the day she was supposed to swim.

However, she decided to postpone the swim after President Emmanuel Macron declared early legislative elections, which caused political unrest in France and overshadowed many people’s excitement for the Olympics. 

As a result of the recent heavy rainfall and the faster-than-normal currents for this time of year, Hidalgo says she will swim in the river in the middle of July.

“I think the president organized new elections to avoid swimming in the Seine,’’ McClure joked.

The river next to the Alexandre III Bridge will host marathon swimming and triathlon events during the Paralympics, August 28th through September 8th, and the Olympics, July 26th through August 11th.

For the third week in a row, unsafe E. coli levels were discovered in the river last week. However, new data indicating an improvement was released by regional authorities on Thursday.

According to test results from the monitoring group Eau de Paris, contamination levels were below the World Triathlon Federation’s safe limit of 900 colony-forming units per 100 milliliters for competitions for all but one day between June 26th and July 2nd.

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