— The Local France (@TheLocalFrance) July 17, 2017
Photo: The Local
The plan to introduce free swimming at the Bassin de la Villette finally came to fruition on Monday afternoon as excited Parisians escaped the hot sun by making their inaugural dips into the three brand new swimming pools.
The swimming pool structure has been built into the Bassin, along the south side of the Quai de la Loire in the 19th arrondissement – incidentally located right in front of The Local France's office – which connects the Canal de l'Ourcq with the Canal Saint-Martin.
And with queues gathering outside the gates well in advance of the 3pm opening and the pool jam-packed after just 30 minutes, it certainly seems set to be a big hit.
The queues for the new pool started early. Photo: The Local
Many of those eager to jump waters of the Bassin de la Villette were young children.
Lina, aged 11 told The Local: ” I'm not worried. I've seen the signs saying they have checked the water is clean off so I am confident.”
Lina's mother Hasna said: “If the Town Hall says the water is OK then I am OK with that. It's hot outside and we need to keep cool, especially the children.”
Fatima who is seven months pregnant was queuing with her 4-year old daughter Aya.
“I am confident it will be clean enough but I have no idea whether it will be too cold. We'll have to find out.”
The temporary structure includes a very shallow paddling pool with 40 cm of water for young children, a second shallow pool at 1.2 metres of water and a large pool for adults with 2.2 metres of water.
In total, the pools total stretch 100 metres end to end and measure 16m across.
With 300 people able to use the pools at any one time, they are expected to welcome 1,000 people every day from July 17th until September 10th when they close.
Student Hiro Hinault, 22, was pleased the rules were slightly more relaxed than at swimming pools in France which mean men swimming in the canal aren't obliged to wear tight trunks.
“I'm hoping it wont be too popular because then it will be too crowded.”
Fellow student David Raab,19 said: “In summer people swim in the canal anyway when it's hot so they might as well open something official.”
The swimming area also includes a beach complete with beach huts, showers, deckchairs and palm trees and will be accessible for free everyday from 11am to 7pm until the end of the Paris Plages season.
“It's a natural swimming experience, without chemical or biological treatment,” The Town Hall promises. The pools are filled with “water from the canal itself”, said Jean-François Martins who works on the team responsible for the city's sports facilities.
A filter has also been put in place to stop any pesky leaves, rubbish and fish from entering the canal.
In May, The Local reported that the water in the canal had been deemed clean (enough) for swimming, meaning that the project could go ahead.
Paris authorities had already voted to allow free swimming in the Bassin de la Villette which links the Canal St Martin and the Canal de l'Ourq in the north east of the city and is one of the locations for the Paris Plages summer beach festival.
But the green light depended on whether the water was clean enough.
“The results show 15-20 traces of bacteria, while the top limit is 100 per millilitre,” Celia Blauel who is in charge of waterways at Paris City Hall, said at the time.
“We have been taking action for five years and the water is of a high quality,” she added.
The Town Hall plans to take down the pools at the end of the summer period, with the hopes of setting them up again in the summer of 2018.
The Bassin de la Villette was inaugurated in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte and was a former port area during the industrialisation of rivers.
However these days it is the centre for numerous cultural events and has been well and truly gentriifed with numerous trendy bars and restaurants opening alongside the water.
This is just the first step in the city's big plans to make public swimming available in the Daumesnil lake in the Bois de Vincennes on the eastern edge of Paris in the 12th arrondissement in 2019 and if the city wins its bid to hold the Olympics in 2024, the Town Hall will aim to make swimming possible in the River Seine itself.