Parisians return to the Seine as new pool opens

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Parisians, and tourists, will be able to swim in the Seine - or at least on the Seine - from tomorrow for the first time in 13 years.

The mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, will today open a new, floating swimming pool moored on the river in eastern Paris.

The pool, open all year round, with an opening roof, replaces a much-loved Paris institution - the Piscine Deligny, which sank in 1993.

To celebrate, the summer conversion of the Seine quays into a mock beach - Paris Plage - will extend to both sides of the river.

The Piscine Deligny was a masterpiece of brass and carved wood, used as an Olympic swimming pool in the Paris Games of 1924. Its loss in July 1993 was described as an "urban Titanic" disaster - even though no one was hurt.

The new pool is to be called the Piscine Josephine Baker, after the American dancer, singer, civil rights activist and French resistance heroine, who died in Paris in 1975. It is housed in a barge, built in Rouen and towed up the river. The main pool is 25 metres long and 10 wide. There will also be a children's pool, a sauna, whirlpool bath, solarium and bar.

It will be regularly re-filled from the Seine. The water will be treated twice, once to protect swimmers, and afterwards, to protect the Seine's fish.

The Piscine Josephine Baker, previously the Piscine Seine Est, will be moored on the left bank, near the new national library, the Bibliotheque François Mitterrand. The old, much-mourned Piscine Deligny was moored in the centre of the city. The first version was built in 1801. The final version was built early in the 20th century, in the art nouveau style, vaguely resembling a miniature ocean liner.

There used to be several floating pools on the Seine. Paris is now notoriously short of swimming pools. M. Delanoe, promised this week that if the new pool was successful, the city would consider building more floating pools.

The fifth version of Paris Plage begins on 20 July and lasts until 20 August. The urban motorway along the lower quays on the right bank of the Seine - the Voie Georges Pompidou - will be closed for a three-kilometre stretch. There will be bars, parasols, deck-chairs, sand-pits and free live music, with a Tahitian theme.

There will also be a 700- metre second beach around the new swimming pool, in front of the national library.