The Real Star of the Paris Olympics: The Seine

The river Seine will host the opening ceremony of the summer Paris Olympics. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP/File
The river Seine will host the opening ceremony of the summer Paris Olympics. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP/File
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The Real Star of the Paris Olympics: The Seine

The river Seine will host the opening ceremony of the summer Paris Olympics. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP/File
The river Seine will host the opening ceremony of the summer Paris Olympics. Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP/File

The Seine will play a starring role in this summer's Paris Olympics, with the opening ceremony set to take place on the river, which will also host swimming events.
Here are things you need to know about the storied waterway.
From Vikings to D-Day
From wars to revolutions and the Covid-19 pandemic, most of the seismic events in French history have played out along the banks of the Seine.
The Vikings traveled up the river on their longboats in the 9th century, torching Rouen in 841 and later besieging Paris, AFP said.
In 1944, Allied forces bombed most of the bridges downstream of Nazi-occupied Paris to prepare the ground for the D-Day landings which led to the liberation of western Europe.
A little over a decade later, a young Queen Elizabeth II was treated to a cruise on the Seine for her first state visit to France after taking the throne.
It was also to the Seine that Parisians flocked in 2020 when allowed out for air during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Monet's muse -
French impressionist master Claude Monet spent his life painting the river from different viewpoints.
Hollywood starlet Doris Day, British rock singer Marianne Faithfull and US crooner Dean Martin all sang about it.
And during one of her raging rows with her songwriter partner Serge Gainsbourg, singer and actress Jane Birkin jumped into it.
The Seine has long inspired artists, authors, musicians... as well as legions of couples who have sworn their undying love by chaining personalized padlocks to the bridges of Paris.
- Barging ahead -
Taking a cruise on the Seine is on most visitors' bucket lists, but the Seine is also a working river, used to transport everything from grain to Ikea furniture to the materials used for the construction of the Olympic Village.
Around 20 million tons of goods are transported on France's second-busiest river each year -- the equivalent of about 800,000 lorry-loads.
Diving in
Swimming in the Seine, which was all the rage in the 17th century when people used to dive in naked, has been banned for the past century for health and safety reasons.
But that's all about to change, with France spending 1.4 billion euros ($1.5 billion) to clean it of fecal matter and other impurities before the Olympics.
The open-water swimming events and triathlon will start at Pont Alexandre III, a marvel of 19th century engineering near the foot of the Champs-Elysees, with the Eiffel Tower looming in the background.
Beyond the Games, Paris wants to open the river to bathers, with President Emmanuel Macron promising he'll lead the charge and take the plunge.
Mind the python
Cleaning up the Seine also has its macabre side. Between 50 and 60 corpses a year are fished out of the water.
Dredging of the river in recent years has also come up with voodoo dolls with pins stuck in them, a (dead) three-meter-long python, an artillery shell dating back to the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and the trophy of the Six Nations rugby tournament, dropped during a victory party on the river after France's win in 2022.



King Charles to Take Part in Official Birthday Celebrations

FILE - Britain's King Charles III pauses during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London on Nov. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool, File)
FILE - Britain's King Charles III pauses during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London on Nov. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool, File)
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King Charles to Take Part in Official Birthday Celebrations

FILE - Britain's King Charles III pauses during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London on Nov. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool, File)
FILE - Britain's King Charles III pauses during the State Opening of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster in London on Nov. 7, 2023. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, Pool, File)

King Charles III will take part in his official birthday celebrations in a little over two weeks, as the monarch eases his way back into public duties while continuing to undergo cancer treatment, Buckingham Palace confirmed on Thursday.
The news came amid reports that Prince William’s wife, Kate, will miss a public rehearsal for the event as she, too, receives treatment for cancer. It remains unclear whether the Princess of Wales will attend the main ceremony, known as Trooping the Color, on June 15, Britain's Press Association reported.
Kate has revealed few details about her illness or treatment since announcing her cancer diagnosis on March 22.
Charles had been returning to public duties before Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last week called a snap election. That forced the king to postpone engagements that might divert attention from the campaign, raising questions about whether he would attend the birthday celebration.
Trooping the Color is a 460-year old tradition in which troops in full dress uniform parade past the king with their ceremonial flag, also known as their “color.”

Charles is likely to travel to the event by carriage with Queen Camilla and is expected to watch the Trooping ceremony seated on a dais, rather than on horseback as he did last year.