Why Protesters Are Planning to Poop in the Seine River Ahead of the Olympics

The French have always known how to effectively protest.

Lauren Wellbank - Author

Jun. 5 2024, Published 2:14 p.m. ET

Three screenshots from TikTok videos of people talking about the planned protest of pooping in the Seine River.
Source: royaventurera/TikTok, jilrockproduction/TikTok, howtobeparisian/TikTok

As far as notable protests go, it sounds like the French are gearing up for one for the record books. Some folks living in and around Paris have taken issue with the country's decision to invest more than $1 billion into cleaning up the Seine River so that athletes can swim in the Parisian waters for the 2024 Olympics — and they're vowing to show their disgust by defecating in the newly cleaned water.

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As to why the French want to poop in the Seine River to send a message, well that has a lot to do with who will be taking a dip before the Olympics even begin. Keep reading to learn more about the hilarious threats being made by the French public.

Athletes swim in the Seine River in August 2023
Source: Getty Images
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Paris officials are trying to clean up the Seine River in time for the Olympics.

Officials have spent a lot of money getting the 481-mile river cleaned up ahead of the 2024 Olympic games in the hopes that the water would be safe for swimmers to compete in. Taking a dip in the river has actually been illegal since 1923 because of excessive amount of pollution (more on that below), according to TIME magazine, so getting the waterway back into tiptop shape is historic in more ways than one.

Many officials have tried (and failed) to clean up the Seine over the years, wanting to make it so that city residents had somewhere to swim during hot summer weather. And while it does look like they're poised for success — it's believed that the river will be clean enough to have 26 different designated swimming areas within the body of water by 2025 — the French aren't exactly happy about all this.

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Laborers have been protesting in the streets of Paris to demand better working conditions, including increased pay. The France government actually responded to some of these protests in mid-May, and agreed to pay bonuses to civil servants working in Paris during the Olympics, as reported by AP News. Now that the country has made it clear that it has money to spend, French citizens are ready to take drastic action.

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Parisians are threatening to poop in the Seine in protest of wasteful spending.

That's right, there's a growing movement online for people to organize together ahead of the river's grand reopening — a celebration that is set to take place with French President Emmanuel Macron and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo taking the first official swim to prove the water's cleanliness — to take a collective dump in it.

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The #JeChieDansLeSeineLe23Juin hashtag (which loosely translates into "I s--t in the Seine on June 23," according to Google Translate) has been steadily gaining steam on social media throughout early June. And while I'm not really sure whether people actually plan on pooping in the river on June 23, this whole thing has created some hilarious memes all while raising awareness about the unbelievable spending going on as part of the project.

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The Seine River has long been plagued by pollution.

A lot of things have contributed to the river's pollution over the years, including flooding, outdated sewer systems, and the boats and ships that travel through the famed waters.

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Unfortunately, even modern efforts to get the river into shape have largely failed, including as recently as August 2023, according to the Currents blog, when a planned swim had to be cancelled due to high levels of bacteria in the river.

So, what makes the city so sure they can get the river up to snuff before July? The fact that it has to. The country is really counting on the increased revenue from hosting the Olympic games, and getting the river ready is a crucial piece to seeing that cash influx.

Can you swim in the Seine River?

The short answer is no, you can't swim in the Seine River. Swimming in the river remains illegal, and even current improvements haven't been enough to get the level of bacteria and contaminants low enough so that it's safe to use for recreational purposes. As for what that means for the Olympic Games in July 2024, we'll just have to wait and see.

But for now, all eyes are likely looking to June 23, when we'll learn whether the planned French protest will live up to the hype, or just end up being another hilarious joke on the internet.

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