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Macron promises to swim in Seine river amid concerns of cleanliness ahead of Paris Olympics

Maelys Hemon takes samples of water of the Seine river before a quality test, Friday, Aug. 4, 2023 in Paris. (Christophe Ena / AP Photo) Maelys Hemon takes samples of water of the Seine river before a quality test, Friday, Aug. 4, 2023 in Paris. (Christophe Ena / AP Photo)
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SAINT-OUEN, France -

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday promised to take a swim in the river Seine one day, as he officially inaugurated the 2024 Olympic village and praised the legacy the Games will leave to Paris, including a swimmable river.

The keys to the 52-hectare village, just north of Paris along the Seine, were officially handed to the Olympics organizers on Thursday. It will host some 14,500 athletes and their staff before welcoming 9,000 for the Paralympics.

"You bet I will," Macron told reporters when asked if he would swim in the river Seine, which the city has promised to make clean enough for swimming by 2025.

"I will do it," Macron said. "But I won't give you the date, or you risk being there," he quipped, before giving a wink.

Paris has been working on cleaning up the Seine so that people can swim in it again, as was the case during the 1900 Paris Olympics. But a sewer problem last summer led to the cancellation of a pre-Olympics swimming event.

Macron is not the first French politician to promise to swim in the Seine. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said she would do so more than three decades after her predecessor Jacques Chirac famously promised to do it "in the presence of witnesses" but never did.

France's President Emmanuel Macron, surrounded by officials, attends the inauguration ceremony of the Paris 2024 Olympic village in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024. French President Emmanuel Macron boldly promised to swim in the River Seine being cleaned up for the Paris Olympics as he toured the new complex that will house athletes on Thursday. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP)

The comments came as Nicolas Ferrand, the general director of SOLIDEO, the company in charge of delivering the Olympics infrastructure, handed a symbolic key to the village to Paris 2024 president Tony Estanguet, officially concluding a seven-year journey since Paris was awarded the Games.

After the Games, the village will be turned into an eco-friendly neighbourhood benefiting 6,000 residents and featuring two schools, a hotel, a public park, shops and offices plus planted areas for pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles.

"Our athletes will be able to experience the Games in the best conditions and you contributed to changing the lives of the people in the area," Macron said.

He hailed France as a "nation of builders."

"What has been done on time and within budget as we finalize the reconstruction of Notre Dame is nothing short of remarkable," Macron added.

Notre-Dame is set to reopen for religious services and to the public on Dec. 8 this year, the cathedral having been renovated after being ravaged by fire in 2019.

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